Thursday 20th October 2022
I can’t let Rannoch Moor, Bodmin Moor, Dartmoor and Exmoor get all the bus blog action so thought it was high time I paid another visit to the lovely North York Moors and take a bus ride across this scenic delight of a National Park.
You just can’t beat a double decker bus ride between York and Middlesbrough via Whitby.
Transdev Blazefield’s route 840 is renowned for the scenery it offers from luxury appointed buses on the route from York to Whitby from where Arriva’s X93 continues the ride through to Middlesbrough via Guisborough.
It takes three and a half hours to travel from York to Middlesbrough but the best scenery is found during the last two hours once the 840 reaches Thornton-le-Dale, not long after Pickering.
From Thornton-le-Dale the route follows an unclassified road to reach the A169 Pickering to Whitby road and the Moors open up big time.
Although it’s autumn there’s still lots of green to be seen as far as the eye can see for many miles all around as the distinctive liveried bus continues its climb northwards. After some miles the green landscape gives way to more Moorland browns as the altitude increases.
There aren’t many bus stops on this part of the route but helpfully the auto next stop announcements morph into a guide to the best sights to look out for with advice to get your cameras ready including the Hole of Horcum on your left ….
…. and of course mention of Goathland station on the North York Moors Railway …
…. and Goathland village itself made famous by the Heartbeat television programme.
Sadly PC Rowan’s Panda liveried car wasn’t on display this time but there were plenty of sheep wandering through as we turned round and retraced our route back to the A169 and on to Whitby.
Route 840 runs 2 hourly and is very much a York based timetable – buses for the route and its fellow 843 (Leeds to Scarborough) are based in Malton – with the first journey from Leeds and York not arriving into Whitby until 10:40 returning at 11:00 with the last return at 17:00.
The buses are branded Coastliner for both routes 840 and 843 and are very comfortable to travel on and well driven by the dedicated Malton based drivers.
Both routes 840 and X93 use Whitby’s fairly small bus station (adjacent to the town’s railway station) making for easy interchange between the two bus routes.
There are two other options to continue on to Middlesbrough – either the Esk Valley railway line operated by Northern or Arriva’s route X4. The former is a fantastic ride but doesn’t run very often – just six journeys a day and only one in the afternoon (at 15:58) and it takes 92 minutes. But is definitely one to do.
The X4 runs more frequently (half hourly) but follows a route closer to the coast (via Loftus, Saltburn and Redcar) rather than across the Moors taking a much longer hour and 46 minutes. It’s also single deck operated.
The best way to enjoy the northern most stretch of the Moors is definitely a ride on Arriva’s route X93 which starts in Scarborough and runs via Robin Hood’s Bay to Whitby before continuing to Middlesbrough via Guisborough.
I had an 18 minute connection in Whitby between the 840 and X93 which gave enough time for a comfort stop even with a slightly late arrival by the former and although the X93 was soon on the stand in the bus station it took some time for the relieving driver to appear.
It’s another very scenic ride after leaving the environs of Whitby as the bus follows the A171 all the way to Guisborough.
Guisborough is a busy little market town also served by Arriva’s route 5 to Middlesbrough.
From Guisborough on to Middlesbrough the route is more functional although on my recent trip a road closure at the end of the A171 on the outskirts of Middlesbrough…
… meant a rather nice diversion through Flatts Lane Country Park and Ten Acre Bank which turned out to be a scenic bonus.
We arrived in Middlesbrough pretty much on time at 16:06 having left York at 12:32 but of course it’s possible to take an hours break (or longer) and enjoy what Whitby has to offer on the way.
I couldn’t help but contrast the travel experience of the Coastliner 840 with Arriva’s X93.
As you can see from the earlier photos Transdev Blazefield provide a very powerful and consistent brand for its Coastliner routes which feeds through to literature including an attractive timetable booklet with maps and ticket prices with supplies available on board buses.
Seats are comfortable and stylish; there are tables on the upper deck and plug/usb sockets as well as Wi-Fi and, as already mentioned, next stop announcements
On the other hand Arriva provide a confused and mixed branding message. Some buses carry a livery developed from the former MAX branding (as shown above and below) and include references to an X93 and X94.
Both routes are also referenced on bus shelter panels in the bus station with two coloured lines on a map presumably showing the different routes heading into and out of Scarborough.
But there’s no indication which route number applies to which coloured route. The hourly X94 supplements the hourly X93 to provide a half hourly frequency between Scarborough and Whitby.
Arriva’s online timetable (obviously there’s no printed publicity material to entice passengers) clarifies the X94 operates via Peasholm Park whereas the X93 doesn’t.
And what a mess the timetable is, showing the Scarborough to Middlesbrough journeys as three completely separate journeys illogically presented from right to left with the last section of route from “Market Place” (you have to know that means Guisborough) – best exemplified by the frequency block for the southbound direction.
Hardly a way to encourage passengers on to what should be one of the company’s prime routes.
On board the buses there are references to MAX on the cove panels and there’s a stylised route diagram which only mentions the X93 and not the X94.
But in a branding twist the seats have changed from being MAX to Sapphire and certainly don’t offer that brand’s promised ‘sparkle’.
The headrests are far too low to be useful and the seats are not what I’d call comfortable.
There’s no usb, Wi-Fi or next stop announcement displays either.
And then to crown it all there’s this abomination which I hesitate to call a livery on these 17 year old Volvo/Alexander buses also used on the route.
As this and sister vehicles used to be in the MAX branding I can only assume this childlike designed colour scheme is what Arriva misguidedly see as the future imagery for this prestigious route.
Maybe it was the winning entry in a competition among local primary school children as I can’t believe a professional design agency could have been involved.
But it is a lovely bus route.
Blogging timetable : 06:00 TThS