With the environment within which bus services are being provided at the moment, success can feel very far away with local councils like North Yorkshire and Cornwall pondering cuts to their funding. Also, Arriva is not a company that you would associated very closely to the term either and that probably follows from the retrenchment that I have seen in Cheshire over the last decade.
Nevertheless, they are claiming that changes implemented to their services in Northumberland during September 2012 have seen good results. Also, there would seem to be conversations going on between them and passengers too and there never is a bad thing. The result is a set of changes that came into place within the last few weeks and today.
Of particular interest to me is the X15 between Newcastle, Alnwick and Berwick-upon-Tweed since it follows part of the Northumberland coastline that I have enjoyed exploring. There is only change to its timetable and it is a positive one: the 19:43 Monday to Friday departure from Newcastle is getting extended as far as Alnwick, bucking a certain trend that sees the decline of evening bus services in rural areas.
Service 35 between Morpeth, North Seaton and Newbiggin has enjoyed success and is seeing accompaniment by the 35A that terminates in Woodhorn instead of Newbiggin. Between the two of these, the Monday to Saturday daytime service frequency will become four buses per hour (one every fifteen minutes) between Morpeth and North Seaton; it is hourly at other times, including all day on Sundays. Also, double decker buses are set to be introduced too and that’s a sure sign of good patronage even if they are refurbished and not new acquisitions.
Related services 30/30A (North Seaton to Ashington to Linton) and 34 (Ashington to Bedlington) see changes too. The former is now an hourly off-peak Monday to Saturday service with its last service in the early afternoon making it more of a shopping service for those needing to such trips by bus. The latter gets enhanced to give four journeys each way a day on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday to Saturday with Wednesday seeing three each way. Again, like the 30/30A, the 34 has all the appearance of a service for shopping trips with its early afternoon stopping point. Extensions to Blyth have been withdrawn though so careful use of onward connections from Bedlington.
Travelsure‘s Amble town service 471 is set to be complemented by Arriva journeys early and late in the day from Monday to Friday. This means two journeys before 09:00 and one after 18:10, giving coverage for a larger part of the day.
The last set of routes face relatively minor changes and these are the X20 (Newcastle to Ashington)/20 (Ashington to Amble), X21 (Newcastle to Newbiggin) and X22 (Newcastle to Ashington). With the X20, the first journey of the day from Newcastle is set to run 15 minutes earlier for better timekeeping. The 20 now sees four journeys each going around by Hadston Square that it didn’t before. These were added at the request of residents on a six month trial basis and I hope it goes well for them. Service X21 is seeing minor changes such as a change of terminus in Newbiggin for evening and Sunday journeys. One journey is withdrawn for the X22 and another retimed. The Monday to Friday 07;13 from Bedlington to Ashington is the casualty because of low usage and the Monday to Friday 07:53 from Newcastle becomes the 07:48 instead.
Thankfully, there are not many service reductions in all of this and that is good news in itself. That there are enhancements is even better and is the sort of development of which more is needed these days. Hopefully, Arriva can build on its recent good fortune and make bus usage better for everyone.
Update 2014-08-11: Service 30 is operated by Phoenix Taxi, Bus and Coach now and is hourly from mid morning to early afternoon and those extra service 471 journeys around Amble appear to have been withdrawn too.