Bus change not popular in village

An Arriva X18 bus. Picture by Terry Collinson
An Arriva X18 bus. Picture by Terry Collinson

Changes to the bus routes and timetable is causing concern for residents and visitors alike in a north Northumberland seaside village.

Recent changes to Arriva’s services in Alnmouth and Lesbury have led to issues for those living in and travelling to the former.

As reported by the Gazette in September, the X20 service has been extended from Amble to Alnwick, meaning that there are two Arriva buses operating every hour between Amble, Warkworth and Alnwick, including the X18 service, with new links between Ashington, Wansbeck Hospital, Lynemouth, Ellington and Alnwick.

The X20 bus also serves Hadston Square hourly, doubling the frequency to that area, and, from the end of September, it replaced the X18 at Alnmouth railway station, which the company says will reduce waiting times between buses and trains.

At the time, Nick Knox, area managing director for Arriva North East, said: “We’re delighted to launch further improvements in Northumberland.

“We’re constantly working towards improving the journey experience for our customers and we are confident that more people will see the benefits of bus travel and jump aboard.”

On the changes at the station, he added: “Following feedback from customers, the X20 bus will replace Service X18 at Alnmouth railway station, reducing waiting times between buses and trains for customers travelling to Alnwick, Warkworth and Amble and delivering improved timekeeping for Service X18.”

However, while there may be an improved service for Amble, Warkworth and Alnwick, residents of Alnmouth are saying ‘what about us?’

The X18 goes to Alnmouth village, but not the railway station, while the X20 goes to the station, but not the village.

As well as the inconvenience for locals, there are concerns that it will cause problems for visitors and tourists travelling to the area by public transport when more people should be encouraged to travel to Alnmouth via public transport, particularly in light of the village’s parking issues.

Indeed, a story in the village newsletter sparked responses from two far-flung fans of Alnmouth.

A regular visitors who lives in Norway said: “Have the Arriva bureaucrats been to Alnmouth? I would invite them to a bar lunch at the Red Lion, by the fire, having made them walk there from the station in the rain and wind.

“The village must be made even more accessible by public transport, not less. Many tourists to the area are walkers and hostellers.

“We meet young people who depend on, and prefer, getting about by train and bus.”

A second regular visitor, who lives in Ontario, Canada, added: “Lugging suitcases from Lesbury Road to the train station and reverse would be a major inconvenience. How short-sighted.”

This week, Mr Knox said: “We are committed to offering the best service possible for our customers and are always looking at ways to improve.

“Following feedback from customers, from mid-January 2016, the X18 bus will serve Alnmouth Station, Monday to Saturday (evenings) and Sundays.

“We will continue to monitor the service over the coming months.”