'A disgrace' - early morning Whitby to Middlesbrough rail service to be axed

The Esk Valley Community Rail Partnership is calling for Northern to reinstate the first train from Whitby to Middlesbrough – but at a later time than the 6.30am service it is losing.
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The 4.56am service between Middlesbrough and Whitby is being been removed from the timetable from May 21, along with the 6.30am return from Whitby, to enable Northern to add capacity on the busier 10.19am service between the two towns.

Alan Williams, Esk Valley Community Rail Partnership Chairman, said the group has made clear to Northern that, reflecting feedback from users, it wishes to see the service restored as soon as possible, but at the time originally specified (an hour later), so that it is more practical for everyday commuting.

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"Withdrawal of the morning service means that once again the first train from Whitby is not until 8.45am, useless for commuting or many longer distance trips beyond Middlesbrough, leading to a revival of the line’s reputation of being ‘semi-detached’ from the rest of the rail network that the line previously suffered,” he said.

The 6.30am Whitby to Middlesbrough train is being axed by Northern.The 6.30am Whitby to Middlesbrough train is being axed by Northern.
The 6.30am Whitby to Middlesbrough train is being axed by Northern.

"From the start of the new timetable it will not be possible to reach Newcastle or York by rail until mid-day, or Leeds until the afternoon.

People ask why in contrast Saltburn, a much smaller coastal town than Whitby, now has three trains per hour to Middlesbrough, two of them provided by Northern, and starting at 5.54am.”

Politicial figures in the town have also reacted to the changes.

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Alison Hume, Scarborough & Whitby Labour and Co-operative Party Parliamentary candidate, branded the move “a disgrace”.

She said: “There are bound to be fewer people using the train – but for those workers who do, it’s an essential service.

"Poor transport links are a barrier for many seeking work.

"With soaring inflation, owning and running a car is becoming a luxury and trains are often the only option open to someone being able to accept work in a neighbouring area.

"Our trains need to be put back in the hands of the people who use them – and maybe then they’ll be fit for purpose.”

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Labour Cllr Neil Swannick, who represents Whitby Streonshalh on North Yorkshire Council, was disappointed to hear that another of Whitby’s transport links to the outside world was under threat.

Scarborough & Whitby MP Sir Robert Goodwill will write to Northern to ask what the figures are and how many people are being inconvenienced.

"If there are people, for example, who use that service for work and that will then mean they can’t do that job, or have to make alternative arrangements that are really difficult, it would be useful to see how many it affects.

“If people have genuine problems then get in touch with me, if there are enough I’m more than happy to pick up the torch and run a campaign, but we need evidence of this.”

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He said the view always has to be taken about the long-term profitability of the line.

"It maybe that, perversely, this decision helps keep the line open.”

Tricia Williams, chief operating officer of Northern, said: “There are a very small number of services that have been removed from the timetable which reflects customer demand.”