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.