More Moors bus journeys

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.

Roger French

Blogging timetable : 06:00 TThS

31 thoughts on “More Moors bus journeys

Add yours

  1. That is a wonderful area and I agree that Yorkshire Coastliner is excellent from my own experience in Summer 2021.

    Arriva seems to be a mess generally though. All their online timetables seem to be similarly machine generated and almost designed to confuse any one who might want to travel. The corporate website is also impossible to navigate. I traveled on some of their routes in Southend too earlier this year and countless journeys did not run and there was a general sense that they just do not care. How this attracts customers to travel or drivers to join is beyond me.

    I guess that Deutsche Bahn no longer care much about building the business long term, given that they wanted to sell it. That seems to be in abeyance so presumably the organization is just drifting and being milked for whatever cash they can earn.

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  2. The X93/X94 is the one (and only to the best of my knowledge) that Arriva North East actually have produced paper publicity for this year, to quite a good standard too. However, it seems that the budget didn’t stretch to very many copies, so they soon became hard to get hold of. A shame for a useful tourist route. The section from Whitby to Scarborough is features some spectacular coastal views, particularly as you climb in and out of Robin Hood’s Bay, well worth ride.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. One thing you haven’t mentioned is fares.
    A day return on the Coastliner from Leeds/York to Whitby/Scarborough is an eye-watering £19.
    Arriva, on the other hand, will give you an all-day ticket covering not just the X93/X94 but any onward connections across the rest of the North East region for just £8.60.
    Obviously, people who travel on free passes don’t see this startling difference, but it is material.

    Yes, Transdev run a better service, no doubt about that, but passengers pay through the nose for it. I’m sure if you asked passengers without passes who travel between Teesside, Whitby and Scarborough whether they would prefer to have their perfectly decent buses upgraded to luxury spec and have to pay double the fare then I’m pretty sure the answer would be an emphatic NO!

    That said, there is no excuse for Arriva’s appalling website and in particular the dreadful presentation of timetables, especially on routes with split registrations.

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    1. A Transdev Daytripper Plus ticket at £19 will also take you from Scarborough or Whitby as far as Manchester or Preston via Keighley and Burnley which in my book is excellent value and well worth it for the quality of their network. I’ve done the Leeds to Manchester section in a day (slotting in a visit to Skipton en route) and a Scarborough to Preston day out is on my to do list. It’s just a pity Transdev don’t operate through to say, Southport otherwise a true coast-to-coast journey would be possible.

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      1. Buying a bundle of 10 Daytripper Plus tickets on the Transdev app costs only £85. That’s £8.50 each!
        I have the Transdev app on my phone for buying tickets despite the fact I live in Newcastle!

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      2. Bus bashers wanting to spend as much time on buses as they can is a very niche market. Yes, if that’s your idea of a good time and you want to travel from Preston to Whitby by bus then £19 may be good value. If you want a day out at a nearby seaside resort then it really isn’t, and that’s who is going to be filling the buses. Arriva will have a lot more passengers making use of connections from Darlington, Stockton and elsewhere around Teesside onto the X93 than Coastliner will have connecting into the 840 in Leeds or York.

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    2. Arriva also take part in the Moorsbus scheme, accepting Moorsbus day tickets on the X93/X94. Transdev don’t.

      For those without a free pass, travelling around the moors by bus is an expensive proposition.

      There’s more to successful bus operation than having a livery designed by one of your chums; it’s a pity that Roger no longer seems to recognise it.

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    3. Sadly the lack of information about these bus operations is so typical of many bus services across the UK. It’s hardly a wonder that bus use is generally declining, as the public can find little or no information about them. Fares, as mentioned, often are high on both buses and trains and simply discourage people from using public transport. Perhaps we can get Tesco or Amazon to operate public transport in the UK and then we might see a much more user friendly approach!

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  4. I’m still annoyed I missed you Roger. I moved to Coastliner Country last year from the south east and we love it, and I was in our village square and actually saw the Coastliner you were on. Just didn’t know you were on it. If I had known, I’d have jumped on and had a chat.

    They have struggled over the summer with both staffing (like everyone else) and with vehicle reliability, because they do take a pounding. But I am pleased to say they mostly have those issues sorted. The drivers are a great bunch (much better than those further south I’ve used over the years).

    Regarding what @stevieinsiby said about fares, the buy on board prices are eyewatering. But if you are regular users with a smartphone, you can get decent prices. If you can use app-based multi-tickets, you can get a single journey of any length for £3.83 and or a day ticket across all of Transdev for £8.50. Much more like it.

    I should also point out the 840 goes from Thornton to Leeds every hour. It is the Thornton to Whitby bit that is 2 hourly during the day. I also feel like saying that, in my opinion, the Coastliner livery is the best there is. It just looks stunning.

    Which brings me on to the stick of rock Arriva livery. Stunning, just not in a good way. What were they thinking. I’d be interested in Ray Stenning’s take on it…..

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The tickets you are referring to involve buying 10 day tickets for £85. Sure, if you are using the bus regularly then that is not bad value, but if you are just making an occasional trip out on a Transdev route then it’s a big up-front cost which will take you a long time to recover your initial outlay.

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  5. People seem willing to pay high fares if the quality is good. Stagecoach Lakes services are very expensive but the buses are busy, true a lot are on free passes. Fates are higher than they should be as bus companies are robbed by the underfunded reimbursement scheme so other passengers have to pay. This is outrageous but it politicians who ate crushing the bus services they claim to love.

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    1. This comes down to knowing your market. Arriva’s main market with the X93/X94 is Teesside and Scarborough, both of which are areas of high deprivation, where potential passengers are far more likely to be put off by high fares.

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      1. Which explains how Arriva get away with running ancient ex London cascades on what should be a flagship route.

        Having used the X93 for journeys to Whitby or Scarborough for over twenty years I can say that it’s halcyon days were when they allocated new, route branded Daf/Plaxton coaches, although the facility of large luggage lockers was far outweighed by the lack of seats for holiday making families heading for the beach.

        It certainly ain’t much fun on a life expired, bus seated double decker packed to overloaded complete with piles of luggage, baby buggies and travel sick kids which I’ve encountered on past journeys.

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      2. The main rolling stock for the X93 should be 6 2014 B9TLs. The two ex London ones were additional for shorter diagrams but they will end up in Middlesbrough. The toothpaste livery really is pretty awful though.

        Transdev really does charge a lot for the tourist market and it’s a moot point whether it really does represent value at those prices. It is much better than Arriva but that much?

        It was mentioned about the four coaches that Arriva put on there in 1999/2000 but then again, the frequency was lower. I’d say that when the B9TLs went on there, it was the high point but sadly, Arriva’s paralysis/ignorance has put paid to the building on that base. So much potential yet so poorly executed.

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    2. Hi Ray, Lakes Day ticket is £12. Staying for a week? buy the 7 day ticket on a smartcard (£1) for £30.50, valid to Newcastle and Chester too, not just Cumbria. That works out at an incredible £4.50 a day – great value. Writing an article for Buses mag about Lakes services.
      The 840 to Whitby won the ‘Most Scenic Bus Route in Britain’ (@MostScenicBus) survey in 2019. Anyone think we should run the survey again?

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      1. Paul
        I have an OAP pass which ran out while I was on holiday! But the weekly is is very good value. I am not sure about another survey of most scenic bus route. There are loads of them and it is very subjective.
        I think it is more important to list all of the most secenic route and press for more publicity.
        Just round Hebden Bridge or Keighley is really spectacular and they are nowhere near being the best

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  6. Just when you thought the “new and exciting” Stagecoach disparate messes which pass as liveries couldn’t be surpassed for awfulness, Arriva manage to top them……..! It is a wonder the North Yorkshire National Park Authority don’t ban them for the eyesores they are!

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  7. So the first 840 arrival in Whitby is 10:40 and the last departure is 17:00, and they only run two hourly, the second will arrive in Whitby at 12:40. Oops there goes my “day” trip to Whitby if I don’t catch the first bus.

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  8. Roger

    I have used the Coatliner many times living on the outskirts of York and go along with all your comments on the journey to Whitby. I sometimes use the NYMR from Whitby to Pickering before getting the bus back to York. Attached is my picture taken at Goathland where the Coastliner does the trip to the village and back.

    Another round Robin is to use East Yorkshire’s X46 York to Hull via Market Weighton then East Yorkshire 121 to Scarborough and Coastliner back to York.

    Enjoy your blogs, keep them coming.

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  9. Market Place might just be a printing error as it names all the other towns and villages on the way.It think that the timetable at Middlesbrough Bus Station actually says Guisborough as I went there 2 weeks ago.The X4 is hardly worthy of the X and when United ran it I don’t think it had an X and was a 200 number and didn’t go via Redcar and Saltburn but via Guisborough and cut across to Loftus and the coast from there whereas what’s now the X93/4,then I think the the 256 or similar,went over the Moors.

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    1. What do you believe that X means, Kevan?

      Xelabus use it to mean “Xelabus”. First West Yorkshire use it to mean “Limited Stop for at least part of the journey”. The old Midland Red used it to mean “longer distance service with minimum fare and/or some stopping restrictions”.

      For that matter, what does Limited Stop actually mean? United Counties used “selected stop”; what on earth was that supposed to mean? What does “fast”, beloved of Transdev, mean? Or “express, for that matter?

      There’s no accepted meaning for much of the “accepted” terminology. It just means whatever the user (by which I mean whoever at the bus company decides to use it) wants it to mean.

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      1. Generally as I understand it X in front of a bus number,but occasionally behind,means express.An X can either be the variations of another service for example you could have a 50,all stops, and an X50 fast.X’s can sometimes be a stand alone service too with no slow equivalent.I have also seen express services written as EX and a bus from Newcastle to Blyth used this but the main place for EX seems to be around Los Angeles in the USA that has a lot of EX’s..At some point the joint United/West Yorkshire Ripon Leeds had X36, I think it was 36, and some infrequently run 36X’s!I think that the 36X followed the route of the normal 36 with the odd fast bit whereas the X36 to the fast way and less stops?

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    2. Kevin – for clarity.

      The X4 has an X because it runs limited stop from Middlesbrough to Redcar (as per the old X73 after dereg, X14 in Arriva days etc).

      The coast route to Whitby used to be the X56 when it ran via Guisborough, again limited stop but on the section from Middlesbrough to Guisborough. Only on evenings and Sundays was it all stops and it became the 256, and latterly the 65 with Tees/Arriva. It was more latterly that it was sent via the old 62 route via Saltburn rather than Guisborough.

      You have to go back to 1986 when it was fully the 255/256.

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  10. Until recently, Adventure Travel in Cardiff used X to signify Cross-city. But they’ve changed it to C for Cardiff – much better!

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  11. It’s not long since Stagecoach East truncated the X5 to run only between Oxford and Bedford, with the Bedford to Cambridge section renumbered 904 with no through working. (There’s also a usually single-deck 905 Peterborough to St Ives – which from next weekend will be only Peterborough to Huntingdon – which was formerly part of the usually double-deck B that now runs only between Huntingdon and Cambridge.)

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  12. It is not necessarily the case that the horrid stripey Arriva livery was designed by amateurs. The German airline Condor has just launched a very similar scheme for airliners, which is the result of work by consultants. The stripes on the planes go straight up and down and look really weird. Maybe it is just a German thing.

    The timetable you feature here is very badly done. Although it looks to be produced straight from scheduling software, most of these programs will allow you to sort the times at a particular point (or points). This just hasn’t been done, which is very poor.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Roger,

    When I was in the North York Moors in July 2022, I picked up a “Summer 2022 Yorkshire Coast X93/X94 Bus Guide” from a leaflet rack in a pub on the A171 near Robin Hoods Bay. It had a full X93/X94 (Middlesbrough – Whitby – Scarborough) timetable (in 24-hour format) with a route map. The leaflet also mentioned the X4 Middlesbrough – Redcar – Whitby service and had an X4 map but with no timetable.

    Arriva North East had probably run out of them by October😊

    Ian

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  14. The lovely X28 and X29 in mid Wales by Lloyd’s might be the most absurd use of the X prefix. Not are only are they not limited stop, but for much of the route as there are no bus stops at all. You just stand by the road and stick your arm out and hope.

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