Northern timetable changes May 2023: DalesRail service over the Settle to Carlisle line axed, early train to Whitby removed and reduced frequency from Bradford to Skipton and Ilkley
The service departs Blackpool North and travels via several Lancashire towns to the famously scenic route, offering access to the Yorkshire Dales. It was previously removed from the timetable in 2020 due to Covid-19 restrictions, as it is primarily a leisure service, before being reinstated. It operated mainly on Sundays.
Passengers can still use Leeds to Carlisle services to access stations such as Horton-in-Ribblesdale, Garsdale and Dent, which are popular with walkers.
In a report following the end of the 2022 season, Community Rail Lancashire said that only 10 of the 18 planned trains ran last summer, with others cancelled for reasons such as engineering work. Around 1,000 passengers travelled on them, 250 on guided walks.
Northern said that long-running issues over Sunday working had affected the reliability of the weekly trains: Regional director Chris Jackson said: “The DalesRail service previously operated once per week between Blackpool North and Carlisle via Blackburn and Clitheroe between May and September. The service has been less reliable than we would have hoped in recent years whilst Sunday rosters remain outside of the working week for the majority of train crew in our West and Central regions.
"Our focus will therefore be providing a reliable service for our customers on routes which are in operation seven days a week. In making this decision, along with our other timetable changes elsewhere on the network, we’ve also had to make sure our overall timetable supports long-term value for a sustainable future, given rail industry cost challenges. We are working with stakeholders on proposals to resume DalesRail in 2024.”
The operator has also withdrawn its early morning 4.56am departure from Middlesbrough to Whitby on the Esk Valley Line through the North York Moors to allow additional capacity on the 10.19am service, which is popular with visitors to the seaside town.
There is now a new weekday return service between Sheffield and Cleethorpes, but cuts to Bradford’s lines. Reduced demand during off-peak periods has seen trains between Bradford Forster Square, Ilkley and Skipton reduced to hourly, with the twice-hourly service remaining only during rush hours.
Northern’s chief operating officer Tricia Williams said: “There are a very small number of services that have been removed from the timetable which reflects customer demand and we have already communicated that information to those communities.”