Business leader’s plea to improve ‘shocking’ rail service between Scarborough and York
‘Unless we come together and call for change we will be left behind’
The 2015 rail franchise agreement promised to bring better journeys to thousands of passengers across the North: more seats, more trains and “world class” rail services. But four years down the line, those travelling to and from Scarborough via York are still relying on one hourly service, often plagued by delays and cancellations.
James Hodgson, owner of the White Lodge Hotel in Filey, is among the thousands of passengers often caught up in the disruption.
The 62-year-old, who says “enough is enough”, is campaigning to see TransPennine Express stripped of its franchise – due to end in 2023 – and for an alternative service provider to take over the Scarborough to York route.
He said: “Everybody I speak to is absolutely fed up, I haven’t spoken to one person in six months who hasn’t been cancelled at least once if not dozens of times. A friend missing his connection to London, my brother’s mother in law stuck in Liverpool, there are thousands of stories and it cannot continue for another three years. It’s shocking and it affects everybody, regular travellers who commute to work and those who travel for pleasure.”
As a hotelier, Mr Hodgson sees the impact rail woes have on tourism and with the A64 still waiting to be upgraded, some of his guests say it’s easier to travel to Northumberland than to the Yorkshire Coast. He is now urging other leaders to join his call for action to demand a better deal for visitors and residents alike.
“Unless the business community comes together to do something about this we’re going to be left behind while places with better transport links see their economy develop and progress.
“All I’m asking for is a half hourly shuttle service to York from Scarborough and back. Once people are in York there’s loads of choices, those who work there will just stay in York and those who need to continue their journey can get on a different train to Manchester or Leeds. At least we won’t have people stranded at York or Scarborough because there’s a cow on the line at Stalybridge or industrial action at Huddersfield.”
Janet Jefferson, President of the Scarborough Chamber of Trade, echoed Mr Hodgson’s call for an efficient half hourly service, adding that the current way trains are run has a knock-on effect on the town’s economy.
“It’s devastating and it puts people off because even if they get here fine, they might not be able to get back. I often go to Northallerton and coaches are always full and trains can often be cancelled because they’re held up in Huddersfield or Manchester.
“Our main link is York and they do need to improve the service because it’s happening more and more and I do think it has an effect on the economy.”
Last month, the second worst this year so far according to data-scraping website trains.im, 10% of services on TransPennine Express’ North Route were either very late (by over 30 minutes) or cancelled – 14% were late.
TransPennine Express has apologised for the inconvenience caused.
A spokesperson said: “The previous weekend saw a high number of areas flooded across our network which had a huge knock-on effect to our services. This, coupled with the accelerated training programme that we are temporarily running for our drivers and conductors as we prepare to roll out our new fleet over the coming weeks, meant that we had to cancel some services.”
More misery for rail passengers
A series of delays and technical faults have left rail companies Northern and TransPennine Express unable to deliver on promises made in the 2015 franchise agreement.
Northern, which currently runs services between Scarborough and Hull, was expected to introduce a new hourly service from Scarborough to York in December. This would complement the existing TransPennine Express service, bringing an extra 14 trains per day (13 on Sundays) and more than 200 extra seats.
However, after years of waiting (the service was initially scheduled for September 2018), the company has announced that due to “further delays” in the delivery of new trains from manufacturer CAF the new launch date is May 2020.
CAF UK Director Richard Garner said the company “regrets” the delay, adding that it’s “working hard to catch up”.
Meanwhile, on the Scarborough to York line, new TransPennine Express trains, partially rolled out at the end of the summer, had to be withdrawn. The new five-carriage trains, featuring 106 extra seats and a real-time information system in every coach, have a software issue and the company has decided to temporarily recall them “as a precaution”.
Scarborough Council leader Cllr Steve Siddons said he’s “very disappointed” by the setbacks and that he will be speaking to both Northern and TransPennine Express to resolve the situation “as quickly as possible”.