Northern's new timetable to leave Esk Valley 'deprived of public transport' and Whitby without evening trains

A rail campaign group has hit out at Northern's new timetable - which will leave Whitby underserved by trains and the Esk Valley 'deprived' of public transport.

As part of the timetable changes coming into effect on May 15, the 6.30am Whitby to Middlesbrough service on the scenic Esk Valley Line, which passes through the North York Moors National Park, has been withdrawn and two evening trains, the 20.42pm from Middlesbrough and the 22.23pm from Whitby, will be replaced by buses. Four existing trains are unaffected.

The Esk Valley Community Rail Partnership had long campaigned for the early morning commuter service that has now been axed, and argued that it needed to set off an hour later to attract sufficient usage.

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However the evening trains were proving popular with people travelling from Middlesbrough and the rural stations into Whitby for leisure.

Castleton is one of the villages served by the Esk Valley Line

The partnership's chair Alan Williams has pointed out that the seaside resort of Saltburn has, in contrast, seen an increase in trains provided by rival operator Transpennine and has questioned why Northern, who have cited issues with staff absence and driver training, cannot run a similar level of service.

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Constraints over infrastructure on the single-track line limit the number of trains that can be run per day - though £7million in funds for a passing loop which would increase capacity have been ringfenced from a Section 106 planning contribution by the nearby potash mine.

"Why is Northern so badly affected by staff issues and Transpennine isn't? We are already living with a tourism industry that jumps up and down, and that evening train into Whitby was just beginning to take off. Are people realistically going to use the replacement bus instead? People enjoyed that journey on a summer evening, it's a scenic route - but the roads are narrow, they'll get bumped around and it just isn't as enjoyable on a bus.

"Transpennine are putting on extra trains to Saltburn, which has two an hour, yet Northern are overstretched and shunting crews around to maintain a service.

"There's a lot of anger in the Esk Valley, which is deprived of public transport - there is no regular bus into the valley. With upgrading of the signalling and a passing place, the line could move to an eight trains per day service, with one every two hours. At the moment, the trains have to be squeezed in and they just aren't at the right times."

The Esk Valley Line serves the villages of Great Ayton, Battersby, Kildale, Commondale, Castleton Moor, Danby, Leaholm, Glaisdale, Egton, Grosmont, Sleights and Ruswarp.

Northern did not respond to a request for comment.