A day-trip to the seaside

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Just before the country was forced into lockdown mode, Jonathan Welch took a trip to the Yorkshire coast to ride the Transdev’s Coastliner and Zap services.

It was fortunate that I had planned my trip when I did, as none of us could have fully foreseen what was just around the corner in the shape of travel restrictions and ultimately a lockdown preventing all but essential travel. As most readers will now find themselves stuck at home, other than for essential travel and work purposes, then let us hope that this report might help give a small flavour of being on the road again.

The journey from York to Scarborough was aboard Coastliner’s 3635. JONATHAN WELCH
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I decided to start my journey in York, using the city’s Askham Bar park and ride service to take me to the city centre, a journey which was achieved as always with little fuss, and on this occasion aboard one of First York’s Wrightbus-bodied Volvos in unbranded and now-superseded dedicated silver livery. That may explain why it looked slightly past its best on the outside, but the driver was friendly and helpful, the interior clean, and the journey quick. With plenty of free parking spaces at the large park and ride site, and an indoor waiting area with information kiosk and toilets, the £3.30 return fare seems good value.

Setting out

I chose to catch my onward service from outside the railway station. York’s station is well served by bus services, which stop right outside the door. On one side of the road is the station building itself, with its impressive portico still fulfilling its original role of providing a covered area for passengers to step out of their vehicle. These days, of course, that mainly means a car or taxi, rather than the horse-drawn carriages it was designed for. Across the road, the backdrop to the row of bus stops is York’s medieval city wall: The modern railway station was built just outside the walls, although when the railway originally reached the city, trains passed through an archway to a small terminus just behind. In future, a large part of the walled city may see little more buses, if plans to reduce car access go ahead.

The high quality interior left a positive impression, and was a pleasant environment to travel in. Upstairs, there are two bays of seats around tables. JONATHAN WELCH

Information provision was good, with printed timetables and electronic screens showing departures. I did find it odd though that anyone needing a bus to Scarborough would find it listed under the ultimate destination of Peasholm Park. If you happen to know already, or to notice it on the well-presented map alongside, it is fine, but for someone arriving and trying to ascertain which stand a bus to Scarborough leaves from it seems rather user-unfriendly. After a short wait, watching a constant stream of buses arriving and departing on local services and journeys further afield, Coastliner’s 3635, BT66MVU, a Wrightbus Eclipse double decker, arrived on route 843 to take me on the first leg of my journey to Scarborough. I was not expecting the mid-morning journey to be busy, but there were around 20 passengers aboard when our bus arrived, and five more of us joined for the run out of town. As would be expected, the bus was clean and well presented as far as I could see, and I was lucky to be able to get a seat upstairs at the front, giving the best view of the scenery as we headed east. Compared to the other seats, the bases of the front seats were noticeably more worn: on a scenic route like this, and even more so the run to Whitby which heads over the North Yorkshire Moors, that is hardly a surprise!

A local service

After a stop closer to the shopping heart of the city, and the historic Shambles, we made our way out of the city centre. On the way, we passed services operated by York Pullman and Connections, as well as First York, on their way into the city. I was impressed with the clear and concise announcements, especially useful on a service where many people are likely to be tourists. On a mid-week, mid-morning journey though, most of my fellow travellers seemed to be locals, a good number using the bus to reach the suburbs and nearby outlying villages or returning from shopping trips in the city centre. Passing Heworth’s attractive and well-kept Holy Trinity Church on our right, which dates from 1869, a sharp left and then right turn saw us heading out of town proper, having dropped off a few on the way already. The rougher road surface here brought a few minor squeaks and rattles from the bodywork, but nothing that would be enough to spoil the journey.

Most of the bus stop flags along the route are Coastliner’s own design. JONATHAN WELCH

Taking a closer look around the inside of the bus, it is always pleasant to see cove panels which are not plastered with advertising. In the typical Transdev style, the coves are covered in neatly designed route branding, promoting the service and the routes operated by Coastliner, which makes for a much more attractive travelling environment. The overall ambience was pleasant, with Wi-Fi and USB ports available. The under-seat blue downlights were not particularly noticeable during the day, but I imagine they add an uplifting effect on-board at night. For those travelling during the day, the glazed roof panels give a light and airy feel to the top deck.

On the open road

After Heworth, we crossed over the A64 on a bridge and found ourselves on country roads in Stockton on the Forest. I was pleased to note that as a cyclist appeared ahead the driver took his time and moved as far to the right as possible to pass. The right turn onto the main road to the coast was accomplished with ease, but I have sympathy for our driver and his colleagues on busy summer days and bank holiday weekends, when this stretch of carriageway is often one long line of traffic. The delays at times must be significant. Despite the easy turn, our bus seemed sluggish in reaching its maximum speed, and as signs welcomed us to Ryedale, it struggled up Whitwell Hill, no doubt a frustration to drivers on busy days with a well-loaded double decker.

As we left the city of York behind, the change in style of the bus stop flags was evident. From here on, they are in the same Coastliner two-tone blue house style, serving as mini-advertising boards for the service, as well as bus stops. Pleasing to note too, at least on the ones I observed, was that the name on the bus stop flag matched the one given in the on-board announcements, which were varied in their tone and style. Some announce, “the next stop is” whereas others use “we are now approaching,” and a number of other variations, which avoids them becoming an annoyingly repetitive background noise.

At Scarborough, the route terminates at Peasholm Park, serving the northern area of the town centre. JONATHAN WELCH

” Yorkshire’s Food Capital”

Malton has re-invented itself recently as Yorkshire’s Food Capital, and we dive off the main road onto the B1248, passing the imaginatively-named York Road Industrial Estate before dropping down into the town centre. A traditional Yorkshire market town, Malton sits on the River Derwent on the boundary of the historic North and East Ridings of Yorkshire. Before reaching the historic market place, we paused to allow our opposite number heading towards York out of a side street, before making the sharp right turn ourselves into Railway Street, arriving at the equally traditional bus station, situated outside the home of Coastliner at Malton depot. Situated opposite the town’s railway station, the bus station and depot both hark back to a previous era, and it would be easy to imagine the modern Volvos parked outside replaced with previous generations of buses sitting awaiting their next duty.

A pause for a driver changeover gave time to take in the scenery, including a bird table in a small garden alongside, before we headed away. Zigzagging across Malton’s infamous and awkward level crossing, we pushed onwards towards our destination. The audio-visual system welcomed new passengers and reminded them of the Wi-Fi and USB facilities on board. As we ran down the slip road and re-joined the A64, my driver’s instinct had me looking towards a non-existent offside mirror. A short while further on, and another right turn that must be difficult on a busy day took us into the small turning circle that serves Scagglethorpe, and its delightfully named Ham and Cheese pub. Our brief diversion saw no takers today, and another lucky break saw us make the right turn back onto the main road with ease, though it did mean overtaking for a second time, the cyclist we passed a few minutes earlier. Again, our new driver handled this well, giving plenty of room as we accelerated on our way to the seaside.

Almost there

As we passed through Rillington, the church clock struck mid-day, and stopping to allow a couple more travellers to leave us, our driver pulled in slightly past the stop to make sure following traffic wasn’t held up on this busy artery. Listening to the next stop announcements, I mulled over the use of ‘get off here’ instead of ‘alight’, which I always find much more polite, though experience tells me that some passengers don’t seem to understand the latter. A diversion through Seamer brings us into Scarborough, where signs advised motorists that the nearby park and ride site was closed until 1 April, which I took as an indication that the service is aimed more at the summer season tourist visitors rather than daily commuters. As we approached the railway station, we passed one of Shoreline Suncruisers’ closed-top double deckers on route 777, its rather unusual destination displaying ‘Town to Eastfield.’ Rather bizarre, I thought, to tell people where the bus is coming from, but I am sure there is a logical explanation for it. Unlike most of the remaining travellers I opted to remain on the bus to the terminus at Peasholm Park, a useful extension for summer visitors wanting to get to the northern part of the town, as well as the north bay beach, Japanese Garden and open air theatre.

Malton depot is the home of Coastliner, ‘Yorkshire’s amazing day out.’ JONATHAN WELCH

Leeds-bound

After a short layover, and a quick chat with the friendly and knowledgeable driver, it was time to head back towards Leeds. Our return journey started off relatively lightly loaded, and stayed that way as we made our way back towards Malton, with just a few passengers alighting Ganton, and a few more a little further along, all exchanging cheery goodbyes with the driver as they did so. An easy run saw us wait a few minutes outside the depot in Malton – arriving from the east gave a brief glimpse through the wide doorway of another bus inside, undergoing maintenance. Arrival back in York was punctual again, though it is easy to see how a long route like this could suffer when the weather brings tourists out in droves. I opted to change here, as although Coastliner buses continue to Leeds, I wanted to try its sister service ZAP.

Another on-time arrival saw our Leeds-bound ZAP operated by Transdev’s appropriately registered YL02ZAP, the driver politely acknowledging my ticket. At £17.50, the Daytripper Plus ticket I had purchased on board the Coastliner service represents good value, allowing travel across Yorkshire and on into Lancashire had I desired on all services operated by Transdev companies. The bus this time was older, and although still in reasonable condition, was starting to show its age and look somewhat careworn. I made my way upstairs and chose a single seat behind the stairwell for this less scenic, mostly motorway journey. The majority of the seat’s upstairs are in a spacious 2+1 configuration, the twin seats on the nearside being spaced apart to give plenty of elbow room. As with the Coastliner bus, they were comfortable high back seats, this time trimmed in full leather, although some were starting to show their age. Nonetheless, it was still a better travelling environment than many, more spartanly furnished buses offer, and bar one item of rubbish on the floor, the bus was clean and tidy.

Efficient journey

The journey itself was as expected, quick, smooth and stress-free. While the bus was not full, for a mid-afternoon journey numbers seemed respectable, and we arrived in Leeds on schedule around an hour after leaving York. Our route into West Yorkshire took us past the construction site that, according to the hoardings, will become the new Leeds Skelton Lake Services, just off the M1 at junction 45, before following the A63 into the city centre. Passing the high-end showrooms of Lambourghini and McLaren, I wondered if any of our passengers had left their sports car at home in favour of the bus and avoiding the hassle to find a parking space.

ZAP uses refurbished Wrightbus Elcipse double deckers, and runs direct between Leeds and York. JONATHAN WELCH

Once we had alighted, our driver parked up for her break, leaving me 15 minutes to have a look around and see the comings and goings. Leeds bus station is a functional but well laid out affair, featuring a range of shops such as Greggs and a newsagent, along with easily identifiable stands for each service, with printed and electronic information available. Not quite a crossroad of the world, but certainly a crossroad of Yorkshire, buses were in evidence from a host of operators: First Leeds and Arriva represented two of the major groups, along with Megabus and National Express services to destinations further afield. Other Transdev operators were in evidence too, Coastliner and ZAP being joined by the Keighley Bus Company and the Harrogate Bus Company, whose onward route 36 uses similarly well-specified double deckers.

For me, though, it was time to re-board and take up the front seat upstairs for a swift return to York, concluding an enjoyable trip around Yorkshire by bus.

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