Rail consultation

WE are writing in support of Graham Bell’s letter (D&S Times letters, July 30), regarding the proposed changes to the timetable for train services operating on the East Coast Main Line.

Firstly, it is worth stressing the importance of a high quality rail network for residents of Northallerton and for the continued economic development and growth of the town and the surrounding villages.

Northallerton is the largest settlement in Hambleton and the county town for North Yorkshire. The town has grown significantly in recent years, partly due to the fact that it is attractive to families wanting to live in smaller towns, but work in York, West Yorkshire, the Tees Valley and Newcastle, all of which are within an easy commute by rail.

One of the key aims of the York, North Yorkshire and East Riding Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) is to develop the growth corridor along the A1(M)/A19 and East Coast Main Line, which has been supported by significant infrastructure investment. Furthermore Hambleton District Council’s spatial plan, as stated in the Local Plan, is based on directing growth to market towns and along transport corridors.

In our view, it is crucial that any proposed changes to the timetables do not adversely impact on the growth ambitions of the town and surrounding area.

Northallerton Town Council has undertaken a review of the changes, as proposed by the train operating companies and our concerns are summarised as follows:

  • As a result of changes to the TransPennine Express, there will be a serious deterioration in services between Northallerton and Leeds, which is a key commuter route for residents in the town and its hinterland.
  • Northallerton currently has two TransPennine Express trains per hour to Leeds and Manchester, which will reduce to one train every two hours. Whilst CrossCountry proposals provide two trains per hour to Leeds, in some hours, the more limited on-train capacity is of concern.
  • As neither the CrossCountry nor TransPennine Express services from Northallerton to Leeds is every hour, this will result in long gaps between trains, up to one hour 20 minutes compared with a maximum of 40 minutes at present.
  • Travelling north, TransPennine Express is proposing to reduce the frequency of services to Darlington, Durham and Newcastle, particularly during the key commuting periods with no trains between 6.55am and 8.55am. This also has significant implications for students travelling to various educational establishments.
  • The level of provision to the north will be further impacted on by the removal of direct LNER services to Edinburgh.
  • As a result of the proposed route changes, and particularly the use of the Saltburn to Manchester path, the rail stock in likely to be the older and inferior Class 185 trains rather than the newer and more spacious Novas.

It is clear that the proposed changes would result in a significant deterioration in the level of service, particularly for residents (including students) commuting from Northallerton to Darlington, Durham, Newcastle and Leeds and further west towards Manchester. This would undoubtedly have an adverse impact on the local economy and future growth of the town and wider area – which is essential in the current climate.

It is the town council’s view that current frequencies should be maintained on key routes with, as a minimum, two trains per hour between Northallerton and York, Leeds and Manchester, with one of those trains extended to Manchester Airport (as now). In addition, at least an hourly frequency should be available between Northallerton and Darlington, Durham and Newcastle throughout the day.

On the basis of the current proposals, Northallerton Town Council cannot support the timetable changes and would encourage others to voice their concerns to their local politicians.

Paul Cornfoot, deputy mayor, Northallerton Town Council.

Political groups

KATHRYN STREATFIELD goes to heart of the issue of my argument when she claims I am affiliated to a political grouping called North Yorkshire Independents “Proper politicians” (D&S Times letters, August 6).

If she took the time to look carefully at the Richmond Town Council website she will note that none of the councillors are listed by political affiliation, unlike the listings on the district and county websites. Therefore her claim that I am affiliated to a political grouping is, I’m afraid, spurious.

The National Association of Local Councils commented that the operation of political groups is becoming more of a feature within parish and town councils and it is NALC policy that "party politics should have no place in parish and town councils".

Parish and town councillors are there to serve their community as members of the community and should not be side-tracked by party political issues.’

There is a distinct danger that with the demise of the district councils and formation of a unitary, larger parish and town councils risk becoming more party political at the time of the next elections.

Kathryn Streatfield says that in her experience, people want representatives who understand and can make an appreciative difference to their lives. The current make up of Richmond Town Council includes members who have a wealth of experience in local and national business organisations, voluntary sector, health and care sectors, education and the military. To claim that only members of defined political parties have that experience is disingenuous in the extreme.

By the time this letter is published, the Richmond Town Council election for West Ward will have been decided – whoever has won the seat I offer my sincere congratulations. All I ask is that the victor puts community first, not political party.

Ian Woods, Richmond town councillor, West Ward.

Probus Club

NORTHALLERTON Probus Club was formed in 1970 by a group of Northallerton businessmen. The aim of the club was to provide an informal social environment to promote friendship and camaraderie amongst retired men residing in Northallerton and the surrounding area. The club has no religious nor political affiliations.

As a result of the Covid-19 pandemic the club suspended activities in March 2020, its golden jubilee year.

The club will resume activities with a programme of sponsored open meetings with speakers, to be held in the Cottage Meeting Room at the rear of the Methodist Church, Northallerton High Street. The room is equipped with an efficient PA system for the hard of hearing.

The programme will comprise three meetings as follows, each commencing at 9.45am, with doors opening at 9.30am: Tuesday, September 7 with speaker Phil Nesbit (subject – the history of hacking); Tuesday, October 5 with speaker John Graham; Tuesday, November 2 with speaker Phil Roser.

The club invites any retired or semi-retired gentlemen, residing in Northallerton or the surrounding area, who may be bored or feeling isolated due to the lockdown, to come along to meet other like-minded gentleman in a relaxed and friendly atmosphere.

For further information about the club, its activities and the above programme please phone 01609 777787 or visit our website at www.northallertonprobus.org

Danny Myers, president, Northallerton Probus Club.

Unitary impact

LAST week Councillor Carl Les keenly welcomed the introduction of a single unitary authority for North Yorkshire by our central government.

What he did not explain was that the disappearance of the district councils and the county council will leave one councillor to cover the roles of both.

In Bedale we will lose four councillors to be replaced by one. That one councillor will often have to travel many miles to get to face to face meetings.

Can we expect the one unitary councillor do so much and spend time in travelling with the same efficiency?

Imagine the challenge facing a unitary councillor in Scarborough having to travel to Northallerton. This change cannot improve local democracy but will weaken it.

The central government have not told us how these super unitary councillors will be elected, but we can expect the Tories to use their favourite first past the post system.

In North Yorkshire we already see this had led to most parties having very little representation.

The unitary system will weaken our democracy and generate a growth in inefficiency in running our local services.

Michael Chaloner, Green Party candidate for Bedale 2022.

Authority changes

IT is rather sad to see North Yorkshire County Council (NYCC) leader Carl Les reverting to the role of a jingoistic Yorkshire man in an attempt to gain support from the general public on the formation of a unitary authority.

Last week’s letter to the D&S “Unitary authority” from Cllr Les was so littered with three word clichés, “a fairer future”, “drive and deliver”, “design and deliver”, “punching its weight”, “flying the flag,” (there are more) one could only imagine that he (or his script writer) had swallowed Boris Johnston’s book “How to solve a crisis with a series of three word slogans” for breakfast.

The jury is out as to how well district and borough councils respond to the coming together to form “one focused work force” although the relationship with Hambleton District Council hasn’t got off to a good start on the issue of Hambleton’s new finance officer.

We are also informed that the “new” area/constituency committees will play a major role in the restructuring however the area/constituency committees were formed four years ago specifically to take on more responsibility and I haven’t seen any significant change as a result of this.

Just as David Cameron’s “Big Society” strategy resulted in large central government funding cuts to local authorities and subsequent growth in volunteer labour, I suspect that the biggest driving force behind the transition of North Yorkshire to a unitary authority will be the same. Now key dates are set, necessity will become the mother of invention and under the guise of empowering communities, more volunteers will be sought.

Those who have read NYCC’s proposal to the government and the subsequent plan will certainly be familiar with the strategy which relies heavily on councils, organisations and the public falling in line. But there is a big difference between a wish list and the nuts and bolts of a functioning body getting things done.

Two weeks ago Cllr Les announced a seminar for county councillors to decide “the next step” following government approval of NYCC’s proposal.

It would be far better if the outcome of this seminar had been made available to the public so we could see what’s going on from the early stages. Unless of course the outcome of the seminar was for the leader of the council to write to the press to reiterate to the residents of North Yorkshire that it’s essentially up to them.

Whereas I’m sure the public will continue to play its part in the evolution of the county both practically and politically, it’s also necessary for NYCC to explain what they (officers and councillors) will do themselves, not what it expects of others.

B Forbes, Thornton-le-Moor.

Airport questions

IT is a very neat trick on behalf of Tees Valley Mayor, Ben Houchen, to label any questions or criticism of his plans as negativity.

This in one word reduces the curious, the concerned and the critical to the category of whingers.

I am content in the knowledge that no one in the political sphere, got where they were by not questioning the oppositions policies.

To then see the D&S Times fall for this ploy, as demonstrated in the comments section, is to say the least, surprising. “Legitimate questions” (D&S Times, July 30).

About a hundred million tax payer pounds have been pumped in to Teesside Airport, the chief backer, Esken (Stobart group) has jumped ship and Mr Houchen is now shuffling the decision-making process with the formation of the Teesside Airport Foundation, so, as he stated “politicians like me” are not involved in the decision making process.

It would be lazy in the extreme at this juncture, for people not to ask what on earth is going on, as a 25 per cent shareholder leaves and Mr Houchen slowly but surely relinquishes his role.

As then for negativity, no, but the phrase negative equity, perhaps, only time will tell.

Richard Baker, Middleton One Row.