MAJOR improvements have been planned for Whitby Train Station, but questions have been raised as to whether residents will see any practical changes to the service they receive.
The North Yorkshire Moors Railway has announced a £1.4 million upgrade of Whitby Station, including the reopening of the second platform, which will allow it to increase the number of trains visiting the town daily.
However, the train company which operates out of Whitby has confirmed that despite the improvements, its services are not set to alter for the everyday rail user.
This has angered some people who would like to see a quicker and more regular service which would open up jobs in the Teesside area to residents who do not have daily access to a car.
Whitby Town Council Phil Trumper, who has started a petition to reinstate the rail link between Pickering and Malton, said he is disappointed residents will not see more of a benefit. He added: “It is not going to improve any possible commute links for locals. The NYMR are the only people that are going to see a benefit. It is quaint and nice to look at but it is not practical for people that live in the town.”
“If there was a fast service to Middlesbrough, people would jump on to get to the college or the hospital.”
Current services from Whitby to Middlesbrough are not favourable for those working a standard 9am-5pm day. Through the week the earliest train leaves Whitby at 8.50am, arriving in Middlesbrough at 10.17am. Three other return services run throughout the day and the latest train back into Whitby runs at 5.40pm, arriving at 7.07pm.
With a new station planned for James Cook Hospital, regular services would also allow patients to travel directly to the hospital, instead of having to change buses or make a costly taxi journey.
The Esk Valley Railway Development Company are constantly pressing for increased services and use of the line to Middlesbrough and last week Northern Rail announced it had negotiated with the company to extend its additional summer services for longer throughout the year, although no dates have yet been set.
Stuart Rands, client and stakeholder manager for Northern Rail, said: “We are delighted to be able to offer more opportunities for passengers to experience the Esk Valley by rail this year. It’s a popular leisure journey for many people across the region, and so will be a welcome extension to the usual timetable and we will be announcing the start date of the services very soon.”
The company has also set about refurbishing its fleet of trains, which they hope will improve customer satisfaction.
The funding package received by NYMR amounts to £1.4 million, with £800,000 from the Coastal Communities Fund. Network Rail, who own Whitby Station, has also pledged £500,000 to aid with the refurbishment, but both they and Northern Rail are set to take a back seat while the NYMR manages the project.
As a charity, any extra income generated for NYMR will be used to maintain the heritage railway.
While the number of Northern Rail services will not increase, the second platform - which may open as early as next year - will allow five NYMR trains to visit the town each day, up from three.
Annually, Mr Benham estimated this would bring an extra 50,000 passengers and £6 million into the town.
Mr Benham also believes residents will be pleased with improvements to the station itself. He explained: “It is also going to benefit not just the community but also the railway as a facility for the community. “There will be better facilities for passengers, for example toilets or better waiting areas.”