Esk Valley Community Rail Partnership has hit out at proposals which will see journey times to Newcastle increase by around 50 minutes from May next year. They are urging people to make their views known as there is only one week left to consult.
Northern Rail is currently consulting on plans to radically alter the timetables from May 2022, which will see all through services which travel beyond Whitby to Middlesbrough withdrawn, requiring all passengers to change there instead, thus extending their journey times and adversely affecting thousands of passengers every day
The Esk Valley Line designation includes services from both Whitby and Nunthorpe to Middlesbrough and beyond.
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Esk Valley Community Rail Partnership have raised concerns that this will have a significant impact on the infirm or disabled, and potentially undermine the future viability and sustainability of the Esk Valley Line.
In a statement they said: “The proposals will particularly affect both employees, patients and other visitors travelling to and from James Cook Hospital from the wider Tees Valley area and, in the opposite direction, anyone travelling from Whitby and the Esk Valley to Tees Valley destinations like Thornaby, Stockton or Hartlepool, and then on to Sunderland and Newcastle.
“As they are now a Government-owned Train Operating Company, it might be expected that Northern would be the exemplar of the promise in the recent ‘Plan for Rail’ White Paper to make our railway easier to use by developing local services, improving connectivity, ‘building back better’ and encouraging rail use and thus less use of cars. Instead, these proposals will do the very opposite and are widely seen as unacceptable.
“The Esk Valley Community Rail Partnership had become increasingly concerned that the ‘consultation’ meetings before each timetable renewal were much too late for any meaningful influence on the timetable planning process, and thus that concerns raised were constantly ‘kicked down the road’ to the next meeting, only to be delayed once more.
“Proposals for May 2022 make the present situation markedly worse by withdrawing all 12 current weekday through services from Whitby, the Esk Valley, Nunthorpe and James Cook to all destinations beyond Middlesbrough in the rest of the Tees Valley and on to Hartlepool, Sunderland and Newcastle and instead replacing them with shuttle services requiring a change at Middlesbrough with waiting times varying between 6 and 10 minutes for morning commuters to as much as 54 minutes during the rest of the day.
“Some shuttles have no onward connection, creating three separate two hour gaps in what is now essentially an hourly service.
“All 10 daily southbound through services are similarly withdrawn, replaced by waits at Middlesbrough generally ranging from 5 to 19 minutes, but also with three ‘connections’ of nearly 40 minutes, including the last train to Whitby. “
“Northern’s own figures for 2019-20, the most recent annual figures essentially unaffected by Covid, suggest that 68.3% of passengers from the Esk Valley line– over two thirds - travelled beyond Middlesbrough.
“A further almost identical number travelled in the opposite direction.
“For passengers from Whitby and the 12 intermediate stations to Nunthorpe, the proposals are even worse, with the morning connection from Whitby to the Newcastle train at Middlesbrough rising from the current 16 minutes to no less than 53 minutes.
“The connections from the two following trains, which are both currently through services, will instead involve a 26 minute wait.
"These proposals worsen the present service and are therefore completely unhelpful and likely to discourage leisure travel on the line.
“The Partnership has told Northern that it cannot support these proposals in any way and asked that they be withdrawn in their entirety and reconsidered.
“But we need to demonstrate that we have the support of the community. This is one area where single voices matter because there is a tendency to take the view ‘they would say that wouldn’t they’ towards responses from organisations like local authorities and ourselves.
“Please take time to respond and have your say. And soon - the consultation closes next week on August 5. Go to: https://www.northernrailway.co.uk/eastcoast22”
A spokesperson for Northern said: “We are currently consulting on proposed changes to timetables as part of the wider East Coast Main Line consultation process.
“The consultation covers the timetable structure from May 2022 and is designed to deliver the benefits of over a decade of planning and investment in the East Coast Main Line, although the industry does recognise that some passengers will see service levels and connectivity reduced as a result of this.”
The spokesperson added: “The consultation is open until early August and we welcome all feedback on the proposals. We will continue to develop plans and timetables that deliver the best possible service for Northern’s customers as part of the wider industry changes.”