Wednesday, 6 June 2012

A return to Hythe please... you'll have to wait until Thursday

Wilts & Dorset have operated route 112 from Lymington to Hythe for many years. Usually in the capable hands of Optare Solos, the 112 is one of my favourite routes to photograph as it passes through many picturesque areas of the New Forest, including Beaulieu village. However, it is a supported service and, in 2011, was cut down to just three days a week operation.

The 112, although never a "frequent" route, for many years had been a reliable connection from Lymington to Hythe. A few departures each day in both directions helped to support lots of local communities. However, the route was never well packed - rarely filling up a Solo except on school related runs (which required a Bristol VR or these days, an Olympian). Here is 2684 (V684FEL) resting in the Ferry Yard at Hythe, no longer used by buses.

The problem with the 112 is that, apart from providing an essential service to local communities, it doesn't provide an essential link. The Lymington - Southampton trade use BlueStar 6, or the frequent train connection via Brockenhurst. Very few people using the Hythe ferry need Lymington as their ultimate destination. Finally, in the summer, the Lymington-Beaulieu service is bolstered by the introduction of the Green New Forest Tour, thereby removing the need to increase the 112 in the summer season. Here is Solo 2683 (V683FEL) arriving in Lymington on an afternoon arrival from Hythe. This no longer operates.

Thus, a skeleton service remaining which only operates on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. There is one AM departure to Lymington and a PM return to Hythe. Therefore, you cannot travel in the other direction... or if you do, then hopefully you've booked a B&B for a couple of nights. There are more services from Lymington to Beaulieu on these days, some which serve the National Motor Museum. However, there is none of the famous Go South Coast publicity to advertise this fact. Here is Solo V682FEL, still wearing its old number of 2682, arriving on Saturday afternoon into Hythe. It will now presumably run dead back to Lymington - I'm not sure why they don't offer a fast return service - excluding some of the smaller locations - from a commercial point of view W&D may earn the odd money here and there. 

There is another alternative. There may be a slim improvement if the service is marketed as a BlueStar Hythe local service. The "H4" or "H12" as it could become, may entice more growth from the Hythe end. Indeed, the odd BlueStar livered Spectra has sneaked up to Hythe on the 112 on occasion... here is 3162 (W162DFX) arriving along Prospect Place in Hythe.

It is just a shame that, due to the nature of these services, they look more doomed and threatened as each year rolls into the next.


  1. The allocated bus operates the M W F only off peak services of 175 (Ringwood- Xchurch). That's all the service apart from an a.m p.m SDO.

    A partner me thinks for eventual oblivion unless an indie tries it on.

  2. The New Forest is now a National Park, yet compare the public transport there with that offered in the Lake District - there just isn't a comparison.

    So many Forest communities have lost their service in recent years (Fritham and Minstead are two that spring to mind), and as is said it is quite possible the Beaulieu and Boldre will follow. Very sad.

  3. The New Forest is one of those strange parts of the country, which, despite being a major tourist destination close to large urban areas, and on direct routes between local towns, the local bus operators have seemingly been completely incapable of trying to setup an attractive commercial service.

    Even before the 112's service was reduced to its current level, it was barely adequate for local journeys, let alone encouraging through journeys via the Hythe ferry. Hardly anyone would have used the ferry to get to and from the New Forest because useable onward connections were mostly non-existent, as has been the case for many years.

    Unfortunately the New Forest Tour is arranged and marketed towards people coming by car to Lyndhurst (with prices to match), so its use for general transport links is limited (disregarding even its limited seasonal period of operation).

    Obviously the most straightforward solution would be for Bluestar to extend a couple of its Hythe routes to Lymington, providing two parallel routes (each partly direct and indirect) which would both have to connect with as many ferries as possible, and have proper promotion, but somehow I can't see them being willing to take a chance and run a proper "missing link" on that scale, especially as they've already had years to try something like that.

  4. It would be nice to think that at GoAhead they would look at the New Forest and think that there is potential in growing services here. If they put on an hourly service from Lymington through to Hythe (perhaps as another poster has suggested with 2 alternate routes) then people will see it as more viable and are more likely to use it. It's probably not going to make huge sums on its own but would certainly prove popular with visitors in the summer months. It would also provide linkage for Bluestar around the forest. This would have an effect I think on the popularity of explorer tickets sold - giving people more of an option for a day out from Southampton and Bournemouth/Poole