A New Skylink for Nottingham – Analysis

In the spirit of keeping the facts as found and analysis / opinion  regarding the replacement of the existing sponsored Nottingham Skylink by Trent Barton separate, here are a few first thoughts.

The existing service has existed for eight years and has been a reasonable success. From a relatively quiet start, the service which then left the City via Queens Drive, Meadows, and ran direct to the airport, grew slowly. A later modification to the route saw it observe every stop via the Meadows, Trent Bridge, Wilford and Clifton. The service grew year on year and probably met its best loadings just before the recession, and a reduction in flights following the EasyJet withdrawal from EMA. Trent Barton’s Rainbow 5 / Indigo service long pre-dated Skylink

At is peak the service carried 0.5m passengers per annum.

So why sponsored? There seems two reasons. Nottingham City Council wanted a premium service, and the airport were willing to pay, and it fitted in with their environmental marketing. The subsidies provided two things:

  • Effectively a spare bus; The lay-over both at the airport, and in the city meant that there was pretty much as much standing time as journey time. This resulted in a very punctual, but costly service.
  • Many services, especially overnight and at shoulder times had very poor loadings.

Overall, however much of the service must have been quite close to breakeven.

Trent Barton have been expanding their Indigo service over the last few months, and I suspect have been looking at a way of expanding their semi-fast service to Long Eaton, in response to Premier’s Red 5. The expansion makes a lot of sense for TB. Best of all, it doesn’t erode the Indigo brand. It could also finally replace the Long Eaton Express, which has probably exceeded its life.

There are however, some significant limitations, as far as I can see, in comparison to the NCT service.

  • The journey time is 55 minutes, approximately 30% longer than the existing service, and prone to traffic delays on University Boulevard, and through Long Eaton.
  • There is a loss of through journey opportunities from Meadows, Trent Bridge, West Bridgford, Wilford and Clifton. This may lead to modal shift. It is not obvious what proportion of users are really affected by this, but it will be some. There is no benefit along the new route, other than a more frequent service, and Beeston Bus station loses its link.

So, Is there life in the old route yet?

The existing route was very well resourced, and 24 hour. These requirements were determined on the basis of the tendered service. Is it possible that the service could be viable based on a more lightly resourced operation? If so, watch out for a registration of Nottingham – Wilford – EMA daytime / Evening service.


11 thoughts on “A New Skylink for Nottingham – Analysis

  1. It’s going to be an interesting situation. How indigo will be reorganised will be interesting in itself. But the latest twist in the saga is premieres latest Facebook announcement :-

    ” Some big changes coming up on the Nottingham skylink which means that people living along the current route will not have direct access to the airport. We have received several phone calls and emails asking if we are going to replace the current service. 

    The answer is we hope so, we have meetings with the airport and council to see if we can work together on a solution. We are currently hoping to provide an hourly coach service along the current route.

    More news on Friday. ”

    Let’s wait and see!

    • Thanks for spotting this. It was what I suspected may happen.

      NCT / NCC / EMA have stated that regulatory requirements prevent the service being sponsored, so if that is the case (and I’m not absolutely sure that is the case since indigo / R5 have existed before skylink and they are really different routes) then Premier would heve to go it alone, as a commercial service.

      Interesting stuff!

      • Let’s hope they call by the parkway station en route, whyever an airport/council supported service didn’t call at the station I’ll never understand!
        I’m led to believe the small hours part of indigo is funded by the airport? In this case surly that’s incorrect then.

      • Interesting statement by Premiere this morning – they AREN’T running via the A453!
        “premiere: Service will not operate via A453 ”
        Wonder if they are bringing back the old Runway5 via Gotham & Kegworth?
        Makes sense considering the planned roadworks on the A453.

  2. I caught the Skylink to the airport once. About half one on a Sunday morning – early flight the next day and this was the only public transport option. It seemed to work well as a city night bus, but very few people beyond Clifton – me and A.N.Other?

  3. From Premier’s web site:

    It’s on EMA – Clifton – Nottingham every hour

    Still questions unanswered. Overnight? Good through ticketing with premier’s services, but acceptance of other operator’s services? Is a return to half hourly services an aim?

    Nice to see the route isn’t dead yet!

  4. I’m intrigued as to how the fares will work out. Red Flyer is offering a £2 single fare from Nottingham to the Airport. I would imagine Trent Barton’s fare will be considerably higher, but if it is, why should anyone use it? If TB make any attempt to be competitive with Red Flyer on price, even to the extent of offering a £2 Nottm – EMA fare, then surely anyone could buy that and then get off in Long Eaton (or beyond) thereby undercutting the Indigo fare. Is it the case that when planning this, TB simply didn’t expect Red Flyer to come along?

  5. An interesting application just lodged by Trent Barton regarding the Nottingham Skylink. ‘The frequency will remain unchanged but most journeys will be re-timed and some will run faster’
    It hasn’t taken long has it! I wonder if they’ve realised already that are at some disadvantage in journey time to EMA compared to Red Flyer. No revised times have been published yet, it remains to be seen whether their new times will be just ahead of Red Flyer!
    A further consideration is the imminent commencement of Tram construction works on University Boulevard. I would have thought this could have an adverse effect on Skylink times, it will be interesting to see how they intend to speed up some journeys!

  6. I’ve used the old skylink for years, whenever I was flying (2,3 times a year). Was an excellent service. Didn’t realise about the changes to Trent Barton till I was on the bus a couple of days ago. The Journey took forever, I was lucky I had caught an earlier bus than I needed. It took about an hour. On the return journey it took over an hour. 4 o clock through Long Eaton was painfully slow. What a great shame. It also cost us £6 return each! (used to cost £3.50 when travelling with one other on family ticket on old faster service). No longer a viable and trustworthy service imo, I used to be worried with the old service it could be slow on the 453 sometimes, this could be even worse I reckon. I seriously doubt I’ll use it again.

    Have spotted the premier Red Flyer service. Looks pretty good, and speedy and reasonable! £3.50 return from Nottingham to EMA, less if you are young or have a kangaroo ticket , or other discount.


    Only hourly, but I’ll give that a go next time!

    Shame about the nct version though. Public transport decisions seem so ill thought out at the moment, what with the tram switching operators and prices going sky high there, its hardly the “big wheel” concept they dreamed up and certainly not environmentally beneficial… cheap fares and good service will get people onto buses, trams, trains…slow expensive services will push people to taxis and cars. Crazy.

    • I think this comment has pretty much sumarises the content of this tread.

      NCT skylink’s previous users have migrated to Red Flyer and the TB skylink is covering the “North of the river” trade.

      An early mis-step by Premier possibly was the use of coaches (because they had some spare?) effectively forcing the service out of the City Centre due to SBQP requirements. This has now been corrected. The service is now being operated with mainly unbranded ADL Enviro 300s. A new timetable from the end of the month goes from Friar Lane and stops at the railway station, not Broadmarsh. This is likely to be a good move.

      There are a few extra peak commuter services, but it is still far from half-hourly. Some of the peak services have also lost their “clock face” departures.

      Trent Barton have removed the timing points from off-peak services, but in reality skylink is still 10 – 15 minutes slower than RF.

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