A look at Bridlington’s public transport offer

Thanks to previous lockdowns and pandemic conditions, it has been two years since we left our last Now You Know What We Did This Summer round-up. The last entry looked at Bournemouth’s buses, which we found were dirt cheap compared with Greater Manchester’s buses.

The last time yours truly went to Bridlington was nearly 12 years ago. I had an overnight stay there and used Lord Tennyson’s favourite resort as a halfway point between Doncaster and Middlesbrough. There, I was supporting the late great Donna Williams at what became her last UK lecture tour. After seeing her Doncaster lecture, I got Northern’s service to Bridlington (via Goole and Hull), then continued to Middlesbrough by bus via Scarborough.

Bridlington has changed a bit since my last visit. The cabaret rooms next to Leisure World (and Leisure World itself) has been demolished and replaced by the smart East Riding Leisure Centre. Marks and Spencer has gone, replaced by the Three Brass Monkeys pub. McDonalds has moved out of town with GOAT in its place (a sports bar, GOAT standing for Greatest Of All Time if you ask). Reassuringly, The Hook and Parrot is still there, and East Yorkshire Motor Services still runs the town’s bus routes. The Dotto Road Trains still run along the promenade.

As with anywhere across the UK, Bridlington itself hasn’t been immune to the spending cuts that has affected tendered bus routes. Only two routes run after 7pm and local routes finish for 6pm. As for Sunday and Bank Holiday services, you might assume they are pretty sparse. Even in a seaside resort that attracts thousands of people in the summer season.

As a rule of thumb, you might assume taxis might fill the gap. Sadly this isn’t so if you wish to travel after midnight. Brid’s taxi companies cease operation by midnight at the latest! Which, for a Greater Mancunian used to 24-hour service from local private hire firms (and Uber coverage) is quite a shock. Still, none of these shortcomings stopped the creator of this blog from having a good five days away.

Brid Buses

With the exception of six routes, most of Bridlington’s buses are operated by East Yorkshire Motor Services. Formerly a constituent of the National Bus Company, East Yorkshire was sold to its management during NBC’s privatisation process. This included United Automobile Services’ Scarborough and Pickering depots. As EYMS, East Yorkshire Motor Services took over Finglands Coachways in Greater Manchester

In 2013, EYMS sold its Finglands stage carriage operations (though not the depot) to First Greater Manchester. In June 2018, EYMS was taken over by The Go-Ahead Group, retaining its East Yorkshire name. By January 2019, the Finglands stage carriage operations, acquired by FirstGroup, became part of The Go-Ahead Group alongside its Queens Road operations. Today, East Yorkshire has one depot in Bridlington, which one of seven depots in North Yorkshire and East Yorkshire.

The other main operator is Acklams Coaches. With a depot based in Beverley, they run four local routes, two of which are circular routes between Bridlington and Bempton. Another one links the town with Carnaby Industrial Estate. There is also a Wednesdays Only service from Ruston Parva.

At its northern and southern ends of the coastline are two park and ride sites. These are linked by shuttle services operated by Stagecoach East Midlands. With a park and ride ticket, drivers and passengers can either use the bus into town or take the Road Train along South Beach or North Beach.

Bus routes:

  • 2: Bridlington – Avocet Way (circular route, once an hour from 0920 to 1705): East Yorkshire;
  • 3: Bridlington – West Hill (circular route, once an hour from 0905 to 1750): East Yorkshire;
  • 4: Bridlington – New Pasture Lane (circular route, every half hour from 0815 to 1752): East Yorkshire;
  • 5: Bridlington – Bempton Lane (circular route, once an hour from 0830 to 1807): East Yorkshire;
  • 5A: Bridlington – Bempton Lane (circular route, once an hour from 0800 to 1737): East Yorkshire;
  • 6: Bridlington – The Crayke (circular route, once an hour from 0845 to 1725): East Yorkshire;
  • 12: Bridlington – Hunmanby – Filey – Scarborough (once an hour from 0615 to 2032): East Yorkshire;
  • 12A: Bridlington – Hunmanby – Filey – Eastfield Industrial Estate – Scarborough (0630 to Scarborough): East Yorkshire;
  • 12C: Bridlington – Bempton – Hunmanby – Scarborough [Weaponess University Technical College] (0715 to Scarborough, 1600 to Bridlington; term times only): East Yorkshire;
  • 13: Bridlington – Reighton Sands – Primrose Valley – Filey – Scarborough (once an hour from 0750 to 2312 – part route journeys available from Scarborough to Filey): East Yorkshire;
  • 14: Bridlington – Flamborough (once an hour from 0745 to 1840; 0945 to 1840 on Sundays and Bank Holidays): East Yorkshire;
  • 45: Bridlington – Driffield – Pocklington – (York) (four return journeys from 0925 to 1911): East Yorkshire;
  • 45A: Bridlington – Bempton Lane (0715 and 1850 to Pocklington and 0715 to York; 0835 and 2015 from Pocklington, and 1925 from York): East Yorkshire;
  • 88: Bridlington [South Cliff Road] – Bridlington [Park and Ride] (every half hour from 0930 to 1825): Stagecoach East Midlands;
  • 99: Hull [Paragon Interchange] – Bridlington [Park and Ride] – Bridlington [Bus Station] (0815, 0945 and 1145 from Hull; 0922, 1052 and 1252 from Park and Ride to Bus Station; 1725 and 2045 from Bus Station to Park and Ride; and 1735 and 2055 to Hull): Stagecoach East Midlands;
  • 121: Hull – Beverley – Bridlington (hourly from 0630 to 2005; extra part route journeys available from Driffield to Hull at 0703 and 0000, Nafferton to Beverley, Beverley to Driffield, and Beverley to Hull): East Yorkshire;
  • 124: Ruston Parva – Burton Fleming – Bridlington (Wednesdays only – 0930 to Bridlington and 1300 to Ruston Parva): Acklams Coaches;
  • 130: Bridlington – Skipsea – Hornsea (three return journeys on Saturdays and School Holidays; otherwise two journeys to Bridlington and three to Hornsea): East Yorkshire;
  • 131: Bridlington – Carnaby circular (weekday peak hours only and some afternoon journeys): Acklams Coaches;
  • 136: Bridlington – Skipsea – Driffield (0830, 1130 and 1430 to Driffield; 1700 and 1815 to North Frodingham; 0720, 0940, 1240 and 1540 from Driffield to Bridlington): East Yorkshire;
  • 504: Bridlington – Bempton (1238 and 1600 to Bridlington; 1530 to Bempton): Acklams Coaches;
  • 504A: Bridlington – Bempton (0930 to Bridlington; 1200 to Bempton): Acklams Coaches;
  • Beachcomber: Bridlington – Sewerby Hall and Gardens – Flamborough (hourly seasonal route from 0915 to 1810): East Yorkshire.

Many of Bridlington’s bus routes are local circular routes that serve the town’s estates and the Old Town. The 45 and 45A runs in lieu of the long-closed York to Driffield line. With a journey time of 2 hours and 22 minutes end to end, it is definitely a ‘bring your sandwiches’ bus route. The rail based alternative from Bridlington station to York is a lot faster (via Hull Paragon and Selby), despite its meandering route.

Six bus routes have a Sunday and Bank Holiday service. One is the 13 route to Scarborough. It is also the only one to have buses from Bridlington after 8pm with its last journey to Scarborough leaving at 10pm.

The second one is the 14 to North Landing. This route takes in Sewerby Hall and provides another way of getting to the hall and gardens besides the Road Train. Formerly operated by Applebys, I remember catching this bus in 1999 with Leyland Nationals on both outward and return journeys.

The third one is East Yorkshire’s seasonal Beachcomber open-top bus routes. Throughout the peak summer season, Whitsuntide and October school holidays, it offers a daily service from Bridlington bus station to Thornwick Bay and Flamborough Head. It ran on weekends and Bank Holidays before the peak season. From the 11 to 17 October, it will run on weekends prior to its daily service for October half term holidays.

The 121 route doesn’t only have a Sunday and Bank Holiday service; it also has a few evening journeys. Back in 2009, the route ran all the way to Scarborough after starting its journey in Hull. Between Scarborough and Bridlington, it co-worked with the 120 route via Primrose Valley, creating an half hourly frequency. Today, the 121 runs between Bridlington and Hull with its Scarborough section spun off into today’s 12 route. As for the 120, that is now the 13 route. As the 120, it used to be a seasonal extra. Today, it is a daily trunk route all year round.

Stagecoach East Midlands’ 88 and 99 routes also offer Sunday and Bank Holiday journeys. These are for the town’s two park and ride sites.

As a bus route, the 130 is one that brims with potential but delivers a lot of missed opportunities. From Bridlington, the 130 offers the town’s only bus route to Hornsea. There are just three return journeys on Saturdays and School Holidays. If you want to spend a day in Hornsea outside of these days, the last bus is at 1230, which means you need to get a 25 to Beverley and a 121 back to Bridlington. (If you need a few scoops, we recommend The White Horse – also known as Nellies – which backs onto Beverley bus station).

Like many of Brid’s buses, there is no Sunday and Bank Holiday service. Having Sunday and Bank Holiday journeys on that route would be a boon for anybody wishing to visit Skirlington Market (which is only open on Sundays). As for the scenery – maritime and pastoral – it is stunning!

Whilst on the subject of sporadic bus routes, Acklams Coaches operates three of them from Bridlington to more rural parts of East Yorkshire and industrial sites. The 124 is a Wednesdays Only route from Ruston Parva to Bridlington. It also has a sister route with the same number from Boynton to Driffield. From Bempton, the 504 offers a weekday link to Bridlington town centre with two journeys and a single journey back. Sister route 504A offers a single return journey, at the Bus Pass Friendly time of 0930 to Bridlington and at 1200 back to Bempton.

Acklams Coaches’ 131 route does not use the bus station. Instead, it uses the Promenade stop and exists to serve workers at Carnaby Industrial Estate. From the Promenade, its first bus leaves at 0526, which is followed by the 0556. Subsequent buses are half hourly from 0626 to 0826 with later journeys departing at 1339, 1419, 1459, 1656, and 1726.

The bus station

The bus station has six stands and three platforms. Buses come in to the station via Princess Terrace from Marshall Avenue and depart from there towards the Promenade.

Today’s bus station opened in 1990. Before then, Bridlington’s bus station was on the site of Promenades Shopping Centre. Its entrance was marked by an illustrated map of the Yorkshire Coast towns, as seen in Of Lost Maps and Lost Towns, a 2017 post on David O. Hodgson’s personal blog. Back in 1977, the site of what is now the Promenades Shopping Centre bogs would have been your stand for the Scarborough bus.

In many parts of the UK, the privatisation of National Bus Company saw the sale of purpose built bus stations and depots to property developers. Some of which for commercial or residential uses. Bridlington was no exception, though retained its depot on Bessingby Way. In many cases, the subsequent bus station becomes an afterthought with a few shelters. Sometimes there is no bus station. Thankfully, Brid still has a bus station, but National Express coaches use a shelter on Promenade.

The busiest stand is A1, which is used by the 3, 45, 45A, 121, 130 and 136 routes. This is closely followed by A2, which is also used by 12, 12A, 12C, 13, 121 and 124 routes. The 4, 5 and 5A use B1 with the 2 and 6 using B2. The 14, 504 and Beachcomber routes use C1. At present, C2 has no services.

Passenger information is available via timetable displays and real time information departure boards. Each platform has a departure board at its most easterly end, but the narrow width of the platforms means you could be standing in the way of several passengers waiting for a 13 to Primrose Valley Caravan Site.

Sorely missed is a manned information point and access to printed timetables. Though printed timetables are seen as an anachronism, The Go-Ahead Group (like its rivals on the Yorkshire Coastliner routes, Transdev) pride themselves on the quality of printed timetables and maps. It is assumed that passengers would fetch their timetables at the Tourist Information Centre, which has moved to a not-so-central part of the town in The Spa (there was also TICs at East Riding Leisure Centre and Prince Street).

For some passengers, the bus station or railway station is the first place they would go to for bus or train times – especially at a seaside resort like Bridlington. This is where passengers without access to smartphones or regular internet access are at a loss.

The Bridlington Land Trains

Not quite buses, nor trains, are Bridlington’s Land Trains. They offer a neat traffic-free way of getting from one end of the resort to another. There are two routes: one from Bridlington Park and Ride up to The Spa, with the other one from East Riding Leisure Centre to Sewerby Hall and Gardens.

The southern route has a 20 minute frequency and goes from the Park and Ride site to The Spa without an intermediate stop. The northern route starts from East Riding Leisure and has intermediate stops at Limekiln Lane Coach Park and Bondville Model Village before terminating outside Sewerby Hall and Gardens. Limekiln Lane Coach Park is now the town’s main coach park, following the closure of a bigger one off Hilderthorpe Road. The frequency is every half hour.

Both Land Trains operate from April till the end of September and leave at times using clock face intervals (on the hour and half past the hour). The service runs from 1030 to 1630. Full fare is £3.50 return on the northern route that yours truly boarded with single fares priced at £2.50. Group fares and integrated tickets with Bridlington Park and Ride are also available.

Trains

The best way of getting to Bridlington for me is rail. There are two trains per hour from Bridlington to Hull Paragon. Some continue to York via Selby, whereas others continue to Sheffield (via Goole and Doncaster).

Northbound, there are trains to Scarborough via Bempton and Filey. North of Bridlington and south of Seamer Junction, the track was singled by British Rail as an economy measure apart from a double line section between Hunmanby and Filey stations. Scarborough trains are hourly for most of the day with the last one leaving at 2002.

Bridlington station

Bridlington station has three platforms, but its lowest numbered platform is 4. Strangely, this is the northbound through platform to Scarborough. Platform 5 is the through platform for Scarborough to Sheffield trains, whereas Platform 6 is a bay platform.

The reason for this quirk is Bridlington station had excursion platforms on its southern side, another two through platforms and a bay platform, which were taken out of use in 1983. On the site of Platforms 1, 2 and 3 is a mix of semi-detached houses and bungalows and a Kingdom Hall for Jehovah’s Witnesses. The footbridge over Platforms 4 and 5 also provided access to platforms 1, 2 and 3.

South of Platform 6 was two excursion platforms, 7 and 8. They were taken out of regular use in 1999 prior to signalling work. The eighth one was retained as a siding from 2003 to 2007. On the site of its excursion platforms is a retail development that is under construction.

Bridlington station is a fascinating building. At one time, the original station buildings were situated on Station Avenue with a covered shed over Platforms 1, 2 and 3. In 1912 an extension was added, which forms part of today’s station. Its wide concourse is a fantastic gateway to the town centre, restored with floral displays. At this time of writing, the Buffet Bar is awaiting a new owner and the station’s toilet facilities have been reduced to a single Disabled Persons’ toilet. (The ladies and gents loos have been put up for sale).

Taxis

With many of the town’s buses finishing for 6pm, Bridlington’s car-free households have two options: foot or cab. Most of the town’s taxis have a uniform white and green livery with the East Riding of Yorkshire Council white rose and the name of the operator. The livery seemingly owes a debt to Metro West Yorkshire’s 1980s bus livery.

The main private hire companies in Bridlington are Arrow Cars, Brid Cars and 1st Line Taxis. As well as town centre ranks, the forecourt at Station Approach is a smart facility for taking a taxi to your station.

For some Bridlingtonians, the taxi isn’t a serious option for everyday use. From our experience, ‘soon as possible’ could be 75 minutes away after 6pm. At best, half an hour though we were lucky to only wait five minutes for another cab after 9.30pm.

If you want to get a cab after 11pm, the answer to that is “forget it”. Some of Bridlington’s taxi companies finish at 10pm or 11pm. With first hand experience of Greater Manchester’s taxis, I thought this was “unbelievable” and “inexcusable”, being used to the 24-hour service that Nexus Move and Swift offers in the Tameside area. Apart from that, not very good for personal security issues and – certainly not – the town’s hostelries. (Perhaps the East Riding of Yorkshire Council needs a Sacha Lord type figure to sort out the area’s night time economy).

Conclusion

If you travel on public transport by day in Bridlington, you will be fine. In a nutshell, you are stuffed if you wish to travel by bus after 6pm. If you are able to get to the railway station and live in Hull or Beverley, you will be fine as well, but there might not be a taxi to get you back home from your later train.

Bus wise, there are only two trunk routes out of Bridlington: the 13 and the 121. It seems like there’s only sufficient demand for buses to Hull or Scarborough which shadow NORTHERN’s train service to the same places.

As I had also found in Falmouth in 2016, there are absolutely no local bus services on evenings. Only the 121, 12, 13, 88, 99, and 14 have a Sunday and Bank Holiday service. What’s more, the reintroduction of evening journeys on Bridlington’s local routes could take some pressure off local taxi companies.

On a happier note, there has been some improvement on the railways since my previous visits. The Scarborough to Bridlington train is now hourly till 8pm – a far cry from its two-hourly frequency it had in the Arriva Trains Northern era at the start of the millennium. Under the new DfT Operator of Last Resort Shouty NORTHERN era, many of these trains begin at Sheffield. The Super Sprinters have been replaced by more comfortable Class 170 units. (For your Express/Super Sprinter/Sprinter DMU fix, the hourly service to York fulfils that need).

Apart from the buses, there is room for improvement in Bridlington’s taxi offer. The early finishes and lack of 24-hour service has been a bone of contention with locals and publicans (as yours truly found in The Brunswick Hotel). To service the town’s licensed premises and live venues, you need a 24-hour taxi service at the very least and buses after 6pm from West Hill, Old Town, New Pastures Lane, and so on. A few peak hour buses wouldn’t be bad either.

A lot of Bridlington’s public transport shortcomings hail from previous governments’ infatuation with private motoring. That of its rationalised railway station; the sale of its previous bus station and a more modest successor at the back of a shopping centre. With its existing infrastructure, there is potential for integrated ticketing between operators, improved evening and Sunday and Bank Holiday buses, and through ticketing between bus routes and any of its two Land Train routes. Oh, and a few more buses to Hornsea would be a nice idea too.

Perhaps we need a serious transport strategy for our seaside towns. Something with multimodal integration a la Blackpool and a bit more of the marketing whizz from Best Impressions (who have dealings with The Go-Ahead Group anyway). Especially as holidays to UK destinations have risen in popularity this year and – in several cases thanks to the pandemic – price.

S.V., 11 September 2021.

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