On Trains & Buses

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Recent changes to bus services in Northumberland

Posted on October 13, 2012

Reading time: 3 minutes.

Northumberland’s bus service have seen big changes within the last few months so I have decided to highlight them here. Unfortunately, it only was reshaping this website in recent weeks that alerted me to what has happened. Ideally, I’d like to share the information before any changes have taken place so it’s a case of better late than never…

The main recipients of the upheaval have been users of longer distance bus services through the county. The ones that are no more are as follows:

  • 501 Newcastle to Berwick-upon-Tweed via the coast
  • 505 Newcastle to Berwick-upon-Tweed via A1
  • 518 Newcastle to Alnwick

The first two of these ran via the A1 to Alnwick before taking their different routes north from there while the latter ran by the coast to take in places such as Amble, Warkworth and Alnmouth. Now, they have been replaced by two services:

The first of these essentially is a renumbering of the old 505 where the second is an amalgamation of the 518 and the 501. That makes the latter a very slow service since it takes four hours to get the length of its route. It is an hourly service with not every service extending north of Alnwick and that part of the route hasn’t lost its daily hourly service. The X15 takes less time to do its route but it still in no quick service since the train does the same distance in around 45 minutes and it takes more than double that (nearly two and a half hours in fact). Sunday frequency now is two hourly and it doesn’t extend beyond Alnwick like it does on other days of the week when it’s the extensions north of Alnwick virtually are two hourly on a service that is hourly on the southern section.

There is one other change that arrived later than the others, coming on the very first day of this month as opposed to the middle of the previous one, September 16th as it happened. It now looks as if the creation of the X18 partially removed the need for the former 410 Alnwick to Bamburgh via Beadnell and 411 Beadnell to Berwick-upon-Tweed via Bamburgh services because those services finished at the end of September. What began running on October 1st was the 418, a new service that operates Monday to Saturday between Alnwick to Belford service that goes via Beadnell and Bamburgh. The timetable shows a service that has two journeys going the full length of its route on all its days of operation and an extra Belford to Craster return journey from Monday to Friday. Looking at how it compares to the X18, I am left wondering how it got retained but that I suppose that argument applied to the former 401 and 411 services too. Local needs are important so who am I to question what has been retained. So long as folk know what’s there for them, that’s the most important thing.

With all this upheaval, one has to wonder what advantage comes from it. There is one though: connections to places like Bamburgh and Craster from Alnmouth train station have become more frequent although they still aren’t perfect. You still have to cross reference train and bus times to get them to work or enlist the services of Traveline. Otherwise, route changes like the ones that have been implemented do need good communication and I hope that has happened given that the telling of folk about bus services is far from ideal at the best of times. Something tells me that the changes have needed time to bed in and I hope that things are settling down now and with no loss in ridership too.