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.