Esk Valley Railway Development Company
Designated Line Action Plan Version 10: January 2013
Development Manager: Angela Thirkill
The Coliseum, Victoria Place,
Whitby, North Yorkshire, YO21 1EZ
Tel: 01947 601987
Mission Statement: To ensure the viability and vitality of the Esk Valley Railway as a sustainable means of public transport through the National Park to the benefit of the community.
The line survived the Beeching cuts, only to fall foul of government cuts in the 1980s. Whitby Station infrastructure was rationalised to the minimum from five tracks to one, and from three platforms to just one in the 1980s. The commuter service was also withdrawn. The service was then rationalised to four services only per day and Sunday services were limited to the high season only. Passenger footfall continued to fall as a result.
The Organisation: Esk Valley Railway Development Company (EVRDC) is a not-for-profit company, limited by guarantee. It is a Community Rail Partnership formed in 2003 to address the specific needs of the Middlesbrough to Whitby route. The ridership was poor and awareness of the line within local communities was very weak. The track and stations are owned by Network Rail. The present Senior Franchise Operator is Northern Rail, who leases the stations (Whitby to Marton) and Whitby station car park. EVRDC is funded by Northern Rail, North Yorkshire County Council and Intercity East Coast.
EVRDC’s remit is to increase ridership and net revenue, manage costs down, increase involvement with the community, address social and economic regeneration and to highlight the benefits of rail travel for the environment. It is an excellent example of Big Society in action.
Patronage consists of a core service for access to secondary schools in Whitby and a thriving number of visitors from the UK and abroad that prefer to travel by rail to avoid chronic congestion and parking constraints. The main season runs from Easter weekend to the end of October, although Whitby arguably has an all-year-round season.
Aims and Objectives
- To raise awareness of the Esk Valley Railway and promote the benefits of sustainable travel by rail, integrated with walking and cycling, through an area of environmental sensitivity, for the benefit of both residents and visitors
- To provide user-friendly, easily accessible information about the service to the general public.
- To highlight the need for an early morning / late evening service to boost economic and social regeneration through access to employment, health, leisure and educational purposes. In Whitby and Middlesbrough, 40% (2001 Census data) of the population do not have access to a car.
- Increase from four to eight daily return services to provide a better service.
- To continue to address the need for an all year round Sunday service and reduce pressure on Saturday services.
- To strengthen the service at peak times to allow for school traffic and capitalize on the popularity of Whitby as a honey-pot destination.
- To continue to work towards infrastructure improvements, particularly at Whitby, to provide new paths to the benefit of all rail operators, including charter services, building on the potential for economic, environment and social sustainability of the line.
- To help reduce congestion on the roads through modal shift.
‘Community Rail Partnerships are in a unique position to support multi-Departmental objectives, to prioritize LSP partners, deliver cross-cutting indicator outcomes and engage with the ‘third sector’’ (Andrew Seedhouse – Government Office South West).
EVRDC’s key objectives address four Department for Transport (DfT) National Indicators: Adult participation in recreation, Visits to Museums or Galleries, Engagement in the Arts, Access to services & facilities by public transport, walking and cycling, Working age people with access to employment by public transport, Local bus and light rail passenger journeys originating in the authority area, Children travelling to school (mode of travel usually used).
- To continue to increase in passenger numbers through targeted marketing specific to the line and the area.
- Continue to work with in partnership with rail industry to achieve local aspirations for an improved service.
- To continue to improve the website travel information, building on the tourism potential of the route through the national park for visitors to promote economic regeneration and to address accessibility for residents.
- The production of newsletters, hard copy promotional leaflets specific to the line which raise the profile, furthering the potential of the tourism economy in Whitby and the Esk Valley. ‘Heritage Places to Visit’, ‘Rail Ale Trail’, ‘Arts & Crafts / History and Heritage’ leaflets encourage visitors to explore further afield, encouraging visitor spend along the route.
- Promotion of walking and cycling with rail opportunities to reduce carbon emissions and tackle congestion issues.
- Line awareness through attendance at strategic meetings, to ensure inclusion of the line in strategic documents.
- Encourage community involvement through the establishment of station voluntary groups tp promote a sense of personal worth and value, together with community pride through ‘ownership’ by residents. Enhancement of the station environs discourages anti-social behaviour. Social capital is difficult to measure in purely financial terms.
- To support and organize events / promotions to increase awareness of tourism potential of the line as sustainable transport through the National Park by promotion of sample ‘Days Out’.
- To continue the regular monthly auditing of the stations, working closely with Northern Rail to help maintain quality and safety.
Since 2004, passenger growth on the line has increased overall by a minimum of 72% – 36% on Northern Rail’s services alone. Representing an annual average increase of 9% overall – 4.5% for the Northern service. The extra Friday evening services have grown by 54% since 2004. Operating for ten days only, the loadings demonstrate how a better service can help improve patronage. Comparative data from four successive years shows an encouraging upward trend. (The data does not allow for revenue leakage on ‘full and standing’ services during holidays and weekends).
A partnership commitment to building the route to meet future demands is essential.
‘The presence of a Community Rail Partnership raises ridership by an average of 7% through strong community links and an understanding of the line’s unique qualities and needs’. (Source: Association of Community Rail Partnerships’ (ACoRP) report: Value of Community Rail Partnerships 2009 www.acorp.uk.com).
‘Urgent improvements to public transport are required to protect, enhance and sustain existing tourism economy in Whitby…..Need to raise aspirations of young people and ensure all young people can access training and work, especially in rural areas. The availability and cost of transport is a key barrier’. (Scarborough Borough Council: ‘Prosperous Communities’, 2007)
‘Good transport is a vital factor in building sustainable local communities. It contributes to the achievement of stronger and safer communities, healthier children and young people, equality and social inclusion, sustainability and better local economies. Where transport fails, these aspirations are put at risk.’ (The Importance of Transport in Local Communities Department for Transport – LTP 3 Consultation Paper)A.M. Thirkill Jan 2013