Bus Transport : Open letter to NYCC

Whitby : Transport

Provoked by the reduction in the Arriva bus #95 service from Whitby, we have sent the following to Cllr Keane Duncan, Exec Cllr for Transportation and Highways at NYCC.

Dear Cllr Duncan,

We would like to understand the position of North Yorkshire (County) Council (NYC) on provision of bus services for the Whitby area, and in particular the rationale behind the recent change to the Arriva 95 bus service.

Background : there are very limited bus services in the Whitby area, with many parts of the urban area not having any bus service, nor have they for several years. We have mapped what is available on this link.

There is a history of people having to move house as they get older to find a house near one of the few bus routes as they become more dependent on public transport, something that should never be necessary. Additionally, verbal commitments from NYC imply an increase in bus passenger mileage of 49% by 2030, and a 48% reduction in private car usage. This would suggest that a modal shift is required, with significant investment in public transport. Given that the north has had the order of 30-40% of investment per head of population of what the south has received per head of population during each of the last 20 years, the implication of your party “levelling up” agenda would be to expect significant change.

Residents of Whitby found out via various sources recently that the Arriva 95 bus service, a lifeline for the many elderly people in the town and district, was being decimated. No communication of this was forthcoming from NYC, just leaving it for residents to discover. This isn’t really the type of communication strategy fitting of a council wishing to be “the most local of all councils“. Can you endeavour to provide better communication of such changes to local communities in the future? Changes should be part of a strategy, and we are not aware of what NYC’s strategy is for our area.

Focussing on the Arriva 95 bus route. This service has been appalling for several years. People can wait for a bus and nothing turn up, ending up waiting for more than an hour. Or two buses arrive within 5 mins of each other. Or upon leaving Whitby bus station and needing to turn up Chubb Hill, it has been known for the driver to go up Down Dinner Hill and have to be reminded by passengers that they have gone the wrong way! As said, this bus is a lifeline for elderly people in this town (and the town has one of the highest proportions of elderly people in the county), so to have to wait at a bus stop for maybe an hour (with some of the health issues that come with age) is utterly unacceptable. Many elderly people have given up on this service because they simply cannot risk having to stand for such a time. Anecdotal evidence from local people is that the bus is usually quite busy.

Regarding the Arriva 95 bus change (2 April 2023) we have

  • the services operating from Whitby through to Lealholm being split off to a new Arriva 96 bus service, and bringing in the Stakesby Road, Castle Road area of Whitby. We consider this aspect a weakly positive move in that this area has not had a bus service in many years and has recently had an amount of new builds, tempered with the fact that it is only 1 bus every 2 hours and no Sunday service, so will not promote any radical change in car usage.
  • the remainder of the 95 schedule will be cut from one bus per 30 mins, to one bus per 60 mins, and the Sunday service will be abolished. This will cause some buses to have people (including the elderly) standing on the journey. It will also cause people to have to wait around if using the bus for appointments. It will also be a suitable deterrent to people even considering use of the bus instead of their car. We already have significant traffic issues caused by excessive vehicles entering the town centre area, and this change will be detrimental.

We request the following

  1. please could you review the unacceptable delivery of the #95 bus service by Arriva, the reasons why the service has been badly delivered over the last few years (insufficient drivers? poor quality buses needing investment?), and what could be done to correct it,
  2. please restore the #95 service to what it was pre the recent cuts (every 60 mins on Sunday, and every 30 mins other days) to retain this essential lifeline for many elderly people,
  3. please undertake a full review into providing a comprehensive bus service that provides for delivering a bus service to all parts of Whitby and District until 2030 that will meet the overall NYC target of increased bus mileage and reduced private car usage.

We would like an open discussion of the public transport needs for this area, and would welcome yourself (and indeed also our NYC councillors who really ought to be representing our interests on this, and other issues) to one of the Whitby Community Network meetings, particularly should you have something to offer that would improve the lives of our residents. For context, your NYC transport colleagues for the Let’s Talk on the Local Transport Plan will be attending our meeting on Monday 17th April.


Whitby Community Network

We did not have long to wait and had a reply from Cllr Keane Duncan four working days later, as follows

As promised, I have raised the issues below with the passenger transport team.

In terms of the situation with the Service 95, this currently operates every half hour between Whitby and Sleights on a commercial basis with NYCC subsidising a 2 hourly extension to Grosmont and Lealholm. The subsidised section runs Mondays to Saturdays only but there was a commercial Sunday timetable between Whitby and Sleights as well.

Arriva have now decided to reduce the commercial frequency to hourly and withdraw their Sunday timetable. This change takes effect from 2nd April.

NYCC are continuing to support a service up to Lealholm but for operational reasons this will become a separate timetable from the 2nd April, still run by Arriva called Service 96 on a similar timetable to now. This has also allowed the route to be varied to give a service along Stakesby Road in Whitby.

The Arriva decision is a commercial one and reflects the need to balance costs against income – the familiar issues we are seeing across the county (and country). As an hourly service meets our criteria for support and is a higher level than we can offer elsewhere we wouldn’t use our limited grant funding to enhance it.

Regarding the reliability issues reported we know driver shortages have been a problem for many operators in recent months but don’t have any more detail specifically on the 95’s operation.

Overall, my priority is protecting as much of the network as we can through this difficult period. This will provide the best basis for building services in the future.

We thanked Keane for his reply, and stated our position on the public transport situation in this reply.

Hello Keane,

thanks for your replies, and for the information.

Yes, we totally appreciate it isn’t an NYCC decision as such, and the current system is at the whims of commercial operators, who are not, to any significant degree, answerable for their service (to the public).

We see news of improved trains to/from Scarborough every half hour instead of every hour, yet this will have next to no impact here, with only a slow (full, unreliable) bus to Scarborough available to connect to them (and no prospect of a fast direct bus on that route). The rail service from Whitby is being further reduced June-Dec (to 5 per day) despite the presence of S106 AngloAmerican money for 8 trains per day, with only the aspirational “one day we may have more”.

The only thing we can really conclude from this is that we, in Whitby, are going to be further away from ever having a reliable public transport system that will encourage residents to leave the car behind. Similarly NYC will be further away from ever achieving their ambition of carbon zero / negative.

All of this means more visitors vehicles coming in to this town, with only 20% of the available car park spaces “out of town”, with the existing park-and-ride not even scratching the surface of the problem, and no car parking strategy in place.

It is frankly dire. We appreciate that you are trying to protect services with the little powers you have.

We are left to hope that a mayor appears in 2024 with magical powers and with a will to actually tackle the many problems, or maybe it will be a continuation of the push (from NYCC) for more and more tourists with no consideration for residents of these towns and no provision of infrastructure to support it.


Whitby Community Network

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