Transport Prioritisation : Emails to MP

Whitby : Transport

Transport is a particular concern in our part of North Yorkshire, with the recent threats to cancel the 840 Coastliner service, and now with the decimation of the Arriva 95 bus service. This comes on the back of questionable decisions by the UK Government and the Department for Transport, cutting the budget for active travel (walking, scooting, cycling) when they suggest that we are to be using vehicles less.

We were made aware of a letter sent by a Whitby resident to the MP for Scarborough and Whitby, Sir Robert Goodwill.

Dear Robert Goodwill,
I am writing on behalf of so many people in Whitby and outlying areas about the deplorable situation regarding public transport. You probably haven’t ever used the bus here, but for many residents it is a lifeline and more. Having a regular bus service helps mental health in many ways, people meet up and talk on the bus sharing life matters and worries. It gives elderly people and others independence to shop and maybe have a bite to eat, go to the doctors or other health-related places. Many of these people are on their own and it will be the only time in a day they interact with others.
Clearly, in other parts of the county, a £2.00 flat fare is paying dividends and more people are going by bus. Cuts to our bus service at a time when we are being encouraged to use public transport more are just indefensible. So how can anyone justify a 50% cut to daily buses and NO SERVICE on Sunday in a rural community such as Whitby and district? As our MP you are no doubt aware of this and should be asking why this is happening.
When was the last time you held a surgery in Whitby to hear what the public, who after all elected you, and like it or not you are accountable to as we all contribute to your salary as an MP? We are now facing a rate rise of 5% with much reduced services. My daughter, who lives in London, pays much less for far more services. I look forward to your response, however I would really appreciate your response as my MP not a cut-and-paste PR job from a minion.

This has subsequently had a reply from the MP.

Dear (constituent)

Thank you very much indeed for your email of the 28th of March. Can I first of all say I was in Whitby Thursday the 23rd of March when I met with a number of constituents. I do have regular visits to Whitby and I also have regular surgeries in Scarborough.

Following the David Amos murder we no longer do walk up surgeries, and if constituents wish to see me then I will generally call on their home if they cannot get to my office in Scarborough, but we see many constituents in my office at an appointment system, which involves the constituent calling or emailing my office for a suitable appointment.  If you wish to have a face to face meeting on the issue of transport please either email on this email or call my office on 01723 365656, and we will make sure you have an appointment.  I also have my home number on the website so you can call at anytime and either leave a message or we will answer if at home and take your call.

I have had a number of representations from constituents about reduction in bus services. Unfortunately since the pandemic bus ridership has dramatically fallen for a number of reasons. Some elderly people are still nervous about going onto public transport where they may be exposed to the virus, but also a large number of people now get their groceries delivered, and therefore don’t need to go down to the shops two or three times a week, and in addition a number of doctors appointments are also conducted online.

It is this reduction in ridership that has forced many bus companies to reduce services, particularly at weekends or in the evening when demand is low.

You mention the £2.00 fare, but a very large proportion of those who use the buses and in particular a large proportion of those who are now not using the buses, are pensioners using their concessionary travel cards, and therefore the cost of the fare is not relevant in that situation.

I have made a number of representations to the bus companies but in the absence of a subsidy from the local authority (and they are reluctant to subsidy buses that run with very low levels of ridership), there is not a great deal more that can be done.

There are of course other services such as dial a ride, and I know also it is perfectly possible for car share schemes where a contribution to fuel is perfectly legal, and I would certainly encourage those living in remote villages to see what can be done to pool their resources and travel together, and indeed I know from experience this is often makes going shopping a much more interesting and rewarding social occasion as well as purely to carry out that task.  I know my own mother in law has no bus service and the local village she lives in have a great set up for visits to the local town.

Yours sincerely

Rt Hon Sir Robert Goodwill MP

and a response from the resident

Thanks for your response.

I do find however some of your email questionable. Is it really fair that a below average 95 bus service with buses quite often breaking down should be foisted onto people especially the old and vulnerable.

Once again NYCCs bid for government money to help matters was not successful, just like buildings schools for the future. How does making people use cars sit with the government’s carbon neutral policy.

Perhaps standing in the queue on a wet windy day would help you understand how annoying it is to wait what could now be 2 hrs for a bus.

NYC should be subsidising the 95 route. We pay more rates than many urban areas who get much more than we do.


WCN were however further provoked by a tweet put out by the Department for Transport regarding cutting tax on internal UK flights that puts the whole transport situation into context. Hence we have emailed our MP to further the issue.

Dear Robert Goodwill,
We have written to you recently about the slashing of the Active Travel budget, just at a time when priorities are allegedly for promoting less carbon intensive ways of travel. We see that those changes have not yet been reversed.
In Whitby, part of your constituency, the Arriva bus #95, a lifeline for local elderly people to travel around the town, is going to be decimated on 2nd April, cancelling the Sunday service, and halving the frequency. “It is a commercial decision” says Cllr Keane Duncan; NYC cannot do anything about it. The fact is that the north has received the order of 30-40% of the funding per head of population on transport as the south has received for each and every one of the last 30 years, as we’re sure you know. Nothing is being “levelled up”, despite the rhetoric.
And just now we see a tweet by the “Department for Transport”
stating that “From tomorrow, tax will be slashed on flights within the UK, a move that will help boost UK-wide connectivity”. This is clearly contradicting the aspiration statements from your government about migrating to a cleaner transport strategy.
Please do explain when your constituency (and county) will be getting a fair distribution of the funding for active travel and public transport, and when the Dept for Transport will have an action plan that reinforces their virtue signalling statement verbal emissions.
Whitby Community Network

Should we get a reply we will share it here.

On 17th April we finally got a reply

Dear {constituent},

Thank you for your letter of the 31st of March regarding transport privatisation. Now that the cross rail (Elizabeth Line) project has been completed, and a number of other big projects in London are underway, the situation with regards fair funding for investment is much better than it has been historically.  In particular HS2 will make North South travel faster and easier, and although the bulk of that money is being spent from Birmingham to Euston, the effects will improve journey times all the way up to Glasgow on the West Coast.

We have seen investment in the North, in particular on the A1, the improvements to the A19 and locally of course you will recall the Lebberston bypass was built during the time I have been your Member of Parliament.

I completely understand the problem with buses, but unfortunately due to a number of reasons, including working from home and the fact that many older people in particular got used to getting their groceries delivered rather than going to the supermarket during the pandemic, we have seen bus ridership fall, and therefore although a case can be made for subsiding buses in some situations, if the buses are running well below capacity, it is very difficult to make that justification.

There are of course other providers that can be used, such as Dial a ride, or indeed I know that people group together to pay for a taxi, which I know is not ideal, does mean that people have to walk sometimes quite long distances to a bus stop or indeed stand waiting in the rain.

Services are only being cut where the ridership has fallen so dramatically, and unfortunately it is very difficult to justify running a large bus for a handful of passengers.

to which we replied

Dear Mr Goodwill,

Thank you for your reply.

A reminder, HS2 will not be coming anywhere near your constituency, and indeed is yet another example of Whitehall-led project mismanagement, going over budget repeatedly. It will not be providing any discernible benefit to areas up here. If you really thought that the north should get priority then you would have lobbied for it to start construction in the north … but you didn’t seem to do that.

If you consider that fair funding is closer now, please do provide an evidence-based response that confirms this. Bear in mind, that to be “fair” you need to “level up” the last 30 years also.

Regarding the local bus services up here that are being decimated. The Arriva 95 service in Whitby is one of the most unreliable services in the country, with buses simply not turning up, breaking down, or going the wrong way, and all of this leading to many elderly people giving up on the service … that is what is causing numbers to fall, because the bus company isn’t capable of providing the service. The numbers of passengers on the 95 were good before decimation. Please do provide some evidence base if you want to claim that it is down to lack of use. We can provide ample anecdotal evidence of such shoddy service. Can you provide evidence to the contrary?

If you and your party want people to use public transport more then decimating services is not the way, so instead they will continue to rely on their private (non-electric) cars. Perhaps if North Yorkshire Council had got funding in the “Bus Back Better” round, or in the last 2 rounds of Active Travel England’s funding then things would not be so bad, … but they did not. at. all.


Whitby Community Network

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