Thursday 18th May 2023
I’m sorry to be reporting on yet another new DRT scheme so soon after last week’s East Sussex FlexiBus write up, but this is the reality of the bus industry at the moment with more DRT operations slowly but surely taking over.
This latest scheme in West Rushcliffe began on Monday adding a fourth zone to Nottinghamshire’s original three (North and South Ollerton and evenings in Mansfield) that began at the end of last August and which I reported on at the time. Funding is coming from the DfT Rural Mobility Fund.
The West Rushcliffe zone can be found to the south west of Nottingham taking in East Midlands Airport, Kegworth, East Midlands Parkway station and the many small villages in between. The closest it gets to Nottingham is the Clifton Park & Ride and tram terminus making for easy connections from there into the city.
Two conventional bus routes have been withdrawn to give this new Nottsbus on Demand branded DRT a kick start. Firstly, part of Skylink operated by Kinchbus (sister company to trentbarton) has been jettisoned between the airport, Kegworth, Sutton Bonington and Loughborough …
…. and secondly bus route 865 which operated four journeys a day from Normanton on Soar via Sutton Bonington and other villages to the Clifton Park & Ride site has been withdrawn.
The new DRT scheme deploys two Mercedes Sprinter minibuses operated by Kinchbus. They’re former Arriva Click vehicles originally used on the abandoned Liverpool scheme so nice to see vehicle recycling from one failed DRT to the next.
Extensive operating hours are from 07:00 to midnight seven days a week and the £2 maximum fare currently applies. A phone line is available to book (as well as the app) but only during weekday office hours (08:30 to 17:00 or 16:30 on Fridays). You can book a journey up to a day ahead.
I did my usual book ahead trick on Tuesday afternoon and had no trouble getting a journey to connect with an 11:34 train arrival at East Midlands Parkway station for yesterday morning. Well, I say no trouble, but the algorithm firstly offered me a half hour window between 11:20 and 11:50 which I’ve learnt is no good as when the precise departure time is confirmed an hour before it could well be 11:20 and I’d still be on the train in Loughborough.
So I resubmitted a journey request lying about my arrival time, making it 11:50 and sure enough got a revised window of 11:35 to 12:05. The techie people don’t tell you this drawback when they talk of “seamless integration” with other modes at “mobility hubs”. Always be prepared for a half hour wait is my recommendation. Maybe take a good book to read.
My EMR train arrived on time yesterday morning and in the event Marcus appeared at 11:45 as confirmed by texts, and we set off for the eight minute run to my chosen destination at Clifton Park & Ride/tram terminus two minutes later.
Marcus asked for the £2 fare but I said I thought my concessionary pass was valid and indeed the Ticketer ticket machine accepted it and I even got an email receipt for the £2 worth of concessionary travel, which was odd.
Marcus had been a taxi driver for many years before becoming a driver with Kinchbus three years ago. He’s looking forward to being on the new service as it’s more akin to taxi work. He thought it would be a success because of the number of villages being served.
There were some leaflets on board the bus …
… and I was pleased to see details of the service on display in the bus stop outside the Parkway station.
We soon arrived at Clifton and parked up at the bus stop still displaying a large 865 route number (see first photo) …
… and as I bid farewell to Marcus I was taken aback by a passenger attempting to board.
I asked Marcus if he had another booking and he replied no and he explained to the slightly confused woman he wouldn’t be able to take her as she hadn’t booked; guessing she might be thinking it was a bus on the former route 865.
She then explained she had booked so Marcus and I assumed her journey must have been allocated to the other driver – which seemed an odd algorithmic arrangement as we were on site – so we tried to reassure her about that only for her to then advise us she had written details of her (phoned) booking on a piece of paper in her handbag which she read out as “pick up between 13:45 and 14:15” which we explained was two hours away and she wouldn’t be able to travel until then – even though a bus and driver were standing idle there now.
Marcus asked if she had anything to do for two hours but frankly there’s not a lot to do at a Park & Ride come tram terminus.
As Marcus still had no next booking advised through his tablet I suggested I could rebook Patricia’s journey for her to leave now and with a bit of luck (and no one else making a booking in the meantime) it should be allocated to Marcus.
I thought it easier to phone rather than use the app which was just as well as the call handler insisted on talking to Patricia rather than me as he needed her postcode and other information including her “rider number” which she’d never heard of and neither had I or Marcus.
Details taken and Patricia’s 13:45-14:15 pick up cancelled, the updated ride duly pinged through on Marcus’s tablet and Patricia could now legitimately climb aboard and was on her way back to her home in the nearby village of Barton in Fabis (previously served by route 865 leaving Clifton at the fixed times of 12:25 and 14:25).
As the minibus left with Patricia on board and I wandered over to catch a tram into Nottingham I couldn’t help think about poor Patricia’s plight if I hadn’t coincidentally booked my journey arriving into Clifton at 11:55 yesterday morning and Marcus hadn’t arrived when he did.
At least last week she’d have got an 865 at 12:25.
Blogging timetable: 06:00 TThS
Reminds me of the time when my train from Cromer arrived early at Norwich but I wasn’t allowed onto the nearly empty London train that was standing there because my Advance Ticket was for the one 30 minutes later. But at least there are “things to do” on Norwich station!
So one assumes she had booked (or someone had booked on her behalf) for the original time (which coincided with the 1425 bus trip).
Did she turn up for the 1225 bus trip, just assuming that the DRT would still run at the same time?
Will she travel in the future?
A good case study on how DRT is not the universal panacea to rural transport.
When will DfT and LTAs ever learn??
I’m a bit surprised by the decision to remove the Skylink service to Loughborugh and replace it with this service which only runs until midnight. I got a late flight back into EMA after a holiday and (since I was at Loughborough uni at the time) took the Skylink back to Loughborough and was pleased to see how heavily used it was by both passengers and flight attendants finishing their shift. These people are going to have to fork out for taxis now – a bit of an oversight!
The main Skylink between EMA & Loughborough (& on to Leicester) is the Yellow Derby Skylink from Kinch and this still runs every 20-mins, this is probably the one you caught and is still busy. The journeys that have been withdrawn are the hourly extensions to the Blue Nottingham Skylink run by Trent which took a longer route via Sutton Bonington serving the villages en-route to Loughborough (& used different stops in the Town Centre at the opposite side of the pedestrianised area from the Yellow Skylink) now largely just covered by this DRT. Notts CC are funding some peak trips between Loughborough & the Sutton Bonington Campus awarded to Centrebus, presumably as they worked out demand for students from Loughborough to the Uni site is too high for a DRT to cope with and gives the added benefit of a fixed timetable peak bus for passengers heading to/from Loughborough as well.
In pre-deregulation historical terms, what became the two Skylink routes were the Barton 310 Nottingham – EMA – Loughborough and Trent 623 (later various other numbers & operators) Derby – Loughborough – Leicester.
It’s the EMA – Loughborough section of the 310 (today branded as “Skylink Nottingham”) which has been withdrawn, while the 623 (“Skylink Derby”) is unchanged.
To me that’s an example of why entirely replacing route numbers with routes branding should be done with care: if you’re branding a single or a main corridor which separates to serve varying destinations then it works fine, but if there are different routes taken then branding should be aided by obvious identification – such as a route number.
TrentBarton don’t like doing that, for some reason.
Rather like HS2, these schemes, now the plaything of world-wide Geeks who are cashing-in as never before, are unstoppable. Yet another example of the “Emperors New Clothes”, where the Movers and Shakers who never use buses themselves yet decide all, have been totally blind-sided into believing this is THE ANSWER to the rural transport “problem”.
It is one thing to remove a poorly used rural service, but when mainstream Airport services are now being withdrawn, reactions may be more than bargained for.
How long is it going to take before Someone wakes up to the simple, and far less expensive, expedient of engaging local taxi firms in these “schemes”? And as for the much travelled Arriva “Click” vans, I suspect they will be the most travelled vehicles in the UK by the time they go for scrap.
‘Bus’ from the Latin word ‘Omnibus’ meaning ‘for all’. Which always used to be the case – you saw a bus and just hopped on. Now it’s a case of ‘computer says no’. Progress?
Overnight journeys between East Midlands Airport and Loughborough, also Kegworth, Hathern and points onward to Leicester are still available using the Skylink Derby-Leicester service operated by Kinchbus (yellow livery). The place disadvantaged by the curtailment of Trent Barton’s Skylink Nottingham service (blue livery) at East Midlands Gateway logistics park is the village of Sutton Bonington, which is included in the Nottsbus scheme, but that did not have an overnight service by the Skylink Nottingham service, only a daytime service.
The bus stop information panel exhorts “It’s time to tear up the timetable and try a new, more flexible way of travelling by bus”. Surely, the timetable has already been torn up? As for being more “flexible” I’d have used different adjectives, such as frustrating or overly complicated.
I know an elderly lady who wouldn’t accept bring told she couldn’t travel without a fight. She once travelled from Chippenham to Malmesbury on a tendered service operated then by Andy bus using her First Day ticket. She wouldn’t accept the driver saying sorry you can’t use that on here, he gave in!
In what other industry would you keep rolling out a service type that clearly does not work? The failure rate is well over 70%
The other favourite with LTA’s is transport hub another thing that in my view will not work
Interestingly the tradition transport hub none as a bus station councils are keen to get rid of
The LTA’s idea of a hub is you use a DRT service to connect to a scheduled service. The problem with that is unless you book days in advance and allow at least an extra 30 minutes as you do not no what time the DRM will arrive at the hub as the journey time can be variable. Equally there is a reasonable risk of the scheduled service ruining later or even being cancelled so it is not an attractive option
I suspect as well what they refer to a hub will just be a bus shelter with no other facilities
Add into the fun often complex apps with each service needing a different app and multiple apps can some times clash. Complex booking system and call centres operating different house and frequently not open at weekends
There seem to be two standard in use. If you use a P&R service in many cases you get quite good facilities whilst if you use a normal scheduled service you get a bust stop frequently with no shelter and no timetable and not even the route numbers the stop serves
It would be interest to get costs and passenger numbers on these DRT service. The cost can normally be found for the service but the cost for the car park and faculties seem to be usually picked up by the council and is usual hard to find if at all. In many cases the P&R fare would not cover the potential parking cost the site could get
Passenger numbers and fares revues is usually not published
If DRT were a normal bus service no LTA would entertain the level of subsidy they need
I think a lot more of these schemes will fail when the government funding runs out
It will be interesting to see how Katch Mk2 does. As nothing much has changed I do not see it lasting long. Cost appear to have been reduced a bit. The spare bus seems to have been dropped and it is now operated by a community bus operator with lowers costs. They have introduced an App so that will add to costs
Quite why they do not run it as a normal fixed route remain a bit of a mystery. I suspect it is more to do with Councils obsession with DRT or possibly if it run as a normal service a council would not pay out that level of subsidy
I wonder if it would not be cheaper to issue taxi tokens in deeply rural areas. Otherwise timetabled fixed routes (with an on demand limited deviations) would be better. These ideally should have a strong traffic objective at either end, rail station, large supermarket, college, hospital etc.
Patricia would probably still be there had you not turned up!These DRT’s seem so complicated to catch that I don’t think I’d ever be bothered to catch one.I just can’t see the point in replacing normal timetabled buses with this nonsense….still Sir Boris Johnson knows best.
Dft Publishes interim data on the impact of the £2 fare
They have not published the full report and it seems to be based on passenger surveys rather than measured data
It includes gems like people without a car were more likely to use the £2 fare well that obvious it does not mean they are new passengers, they are making new journeys
It also state that up various by region so higher in the North lower i the South. That will be reflecting car ownership
Take up higher in urban areas than rural. Again obvious as rural areas have very obvious
They claim a 28% increase in usage at weekends and 18% on weekdays. Not stated how they arrived at that .It does not tally with my observation and most LTAs suggest it has made only a marginal difference
This as well does not tally with the fact that about 10^ of service were cut over the same period
Interesting to read your criticism of the £2 fare scheme. I’m sure previously you were complaining that bus services were too expensive.
Still, if all bus companies dispensed with any sort of technology and went “back to basics” like the old days everything would be fine. Printing timetables and putting them at bus stops will ensure new passengers (not “customers”) are attracted.
What’s the DRT experience in Europe? I know of some in Germany. They seem qualitatively different in that they don’t offer/promise taxi like flexibility in a given area. They tend to offer fixed route timetabled travel to a hub, connecting with a train for departure/arrival then returning to the hinterland dropping people off at their front doors. The only DRT aspect is that you must call in to book the trip otherwise it doesn’t run. As well as rural areas some Berlin night buses run on this model. I don’t know of any DRT’s in France or the Netherlands.
I saw a similar thing in Belgium once from Brugge to a few villages within about a 10km radius of Brugge and it was run by De Lyn.
DE Lynn also operate the tram from Ostend to DePanne
A total journey time of 2.2 Hours. It runs along the cost and well worth a ride
The Netherlands had plenty of the same thing you found in Germany, and also some which would pick up at stations at a fixed time. Not so popular anymore though. There have been a lot of DRT schemes launched in the last few years, each with different conditions and booking methods (and not showing up in journey planners), plenty of normal services cut or withdrawn, and some upcoming concessions look set to take this further.
De Lijn got rid of most of their belbussen, but the odd one still survives (certainly around Poperinge in West-Vlaanderen, where buses are thin on the ground outside of school times).
I was also pleased to see DRT vehicles being recycled from failed schemes to new ones. Perhaps there are now enough in service that no new ones will need to be procured?
Transport for Wales will have a couple to reallocate when their Blaenau Gwent Fflecsi service (operated by Stagecoach) is withdrawn on 2 July.
They only introduced a few months ago. Thats did not last long