MP for Wansbeck, Ian Lavery, has published a diary used to document his day of travel on public transport as he used only the public transport routes available to get between constituency engagements and meetings…
Thousands of people across the Wansbeck Constituency rely on public transport to get them to and from work, to access shopping and services. On Thursday I spent a day experiencing the issues they face for myself.
9.00AM Arriva Depot Ashington
First appointment of the day was a meeting with management and trade unionists from Arriva at their impressive depot in Ashington. In a wide ranging meeting we discussed the day ahead, the terms and conditions of drivers (including a national agreement to wear shorts) and the issues facing bus companies in the local area. Top of the concerns raised was the potential impact of reopening the Ashington Blyth and Tyne line on the core services to Newcastle and its knock on effect to staff and passengers. We all agreed that an integrated transport system was essential for the area and that we should meet again soon to discuss.
9.55AM Ashington Bus Station
After a short walk from the depot, I boarded the Go North East 434 Linton to North Blyth Service at Ashington bus station. As I boarded the bus, I spoke to the one passenger already on board, who was using the service to attend his GP surgery to have dressings changed. As the bus left Ashington to head for Cambois and North Blyth only one other passenger boarded at Stakeford and left at West Sleekburn. The bus journey to North Blyth runs from Cambois Village along the coast and as always I was struck by the beauty of the beach.
10.13AM North Blyth
Got off the bus at North Blyth, a community very much in urban south east Northumberland but like its neighbours Cambois and East Sleekburn also very isolated. Part of todays plan was to get the bus from North Blyth to Cramlington Hospital to highlight the difficulties faced by local people so this visit included a short wait for the bus which we’d disembarked to return. It is worth noting that there are seven busses that arrive in North Blyth every day but the first isn’t unit 9.07am and the last is at 14.07.
Took the opportunity to record some footage for my video diary and had a walk around the area. As we walked back to bus stop a man approached who had seen us from his back garden. As he approached I noticed he was wearing a Nike style Corbyn T-Shirt. He was wondering what we were doing in North Blyth and we had a great conversation about Brexit, the peacefulness and sense of community of the village and the potential for arts funding to be utilised (He advised he was a playwright).
10.38AM North Blyth to Cramlington Hospital
The bus arrived almost to the second on time. This time on getting aboard it was a more lively affair with a number of Cambois residents aboard. We had a great conversation about the isolation of the community and the reliance of those aboard on the bus. A mix of women and men were travelling on to Ashington, Bedlington and Blyth to access services and all were thankful of the bus service but wanted more.
One of the women in her 90’s said showed me a picture of her playing the drums at Bomarsund Club back in the 70’s and said that during the miners strikes she had put on entertainment for free and raised funds for striking miners. Another said she was a fourth generation resident of Cambois with her forebears coming when the colliery was sunk. Another had lost her father at Cambois Colliery. This was a heartwarming journey on a bus heavily reliant on subsidy and a vital lifeline to people with bus passes that otherwise would be priced out of modern life.
10.49AM Half Moon Inn, Stakeford
As the bus pulled in the passengers gave the bus driver, who all agreed was fantastic, a round of applause. I disembarked to catch the connecting bus to Cramlington Hospital, a twenty-minute wait and following some confusion a short walk to a different bus stop. Whilst walking I met a sister of a close friend and had a great chat.
11.09AM Stakeford to Cramlington Hospital
At the Stakeford Lane stop I boarded the Arriva 57 bus to Whitley Bay. On the bus I spoke to the driver who explained that he had loved the job so much that he’d retired and come back to work. He believed the job was so good because of meeting people and making relationships with passengers using the services on a daily basis.
11:50AM Northumbria Specialist Emergency Care Hospital (NSECH), Cramlington
After an hour and ten minute journey (delay of approximately 9 minutes) I arrived at the NSECH in Cramlington. This is a journey that by car would have taken approximately ten minutes. Opportunity to film a further segment for the video diary. Having travelled from North Blyth to Cramlington I am struck by the fact that someone needing to get to the hospital prior to 10.14 In the morning whether for work or an appointment would be unable to do so on public transport. It would also be impossible to return to Cambois, East Sleekburn or North Blyth using public transport having visited a loved one. The last bus from the hospital back home would leave at 12.46 (with two changes) and the visiting times are between 2.30pm-4pm and 6.30pm-7.30pm.
12.13 12.33PM NSECH to Newbiggin by the sea
The Arriva 57 bus to Ashington was delayed by approximately twenty minutes due to heavy traffic in Monkseaton. I noted that whilst I was able to change my schedule slightly for the afternoon to take account for this, employers or the job centre might not be so forgiving. As a result the connecting bus to Newbiggin by the sea at Ashington Bus Station had to be changed.
Swift change at Ashington to the Arriva 35 to Newbiggin by the sea.
1.32PM Newbiggin by the sea
Originally planned to have lunch at the fantastic Maritime Centre but due to time constraints a swift sandwich was the order of the day. Had time for a quick walk along the prom on what was a glorious afternoon. It was great to see so many people enjoying the beautiful Newbiggin bay. Had a chat with residents and visitors on the seafront covering tourism, transport and of course Brexit.
A relatively regular bus service covers the community but Newbiggin has lost many facilities over the past few years and relies on this. Parts of the community that were once serviced by a bus no longer are and I cannot help but feel people have been left behind because of it.
2.01PM Newbiggin by the sea to Bedlington Terriers FC
Boarded the X21 to Newcastle at the Cresswell Arms speaking to the driver who was happy to be finishing to enjoy the sunshine when he returned to Ashington.
Joined on the bus by Councillor John Batey at Bedlington Station CO-OP to meet with the Bedlington Terriers Chairman.
2.41PM Dr. Pit, Welfare Park home of Bedlington Terriers FC
Short walk to meeting with Bedlington Terriers Chairman Ronan Liddane to discuss his plans for the new season. Mixed start to the season for the Terriers with a good opening day away win but losing out by the odd goal in seven at home on Tuesday night. Made the introduction to Councillor Batey who is chair of East Bedlington Parish Council to see how they can support the club and further develop opportunities for people particularly young people living in the parish.
3.41PM Bedlington to Morpeth Bus Station
Waited at Beech Grove bus stop for the Arriva 2 Bus to Morpeth. Had a great conversation with a woman who was not looking forward to forecast thunder and lightening having almost been struck on Malta many years prior. Boarded bus and headed into Morpeth.
4.03PM New Life Morpeth
Short walk from Morpeth’s fantastic bus station to the New Life Church for a meeting with Pastor Mike Willis. It was great to catch up with Mike about some of the issues facing the local community. It was worrying to learn of homelessness in Morpeth which on the surface is a town where that issue wouldn’t be thought of as prevalent, but Mike advised of a number of people suffering. It was also heartbreaking to learn of a cancer sufferer in another of Mike’s churches in North Tyneside needing to raise £5K per month for treatment not available through the NHS. Some issues to definitely be taken up.
4.55 5.15 Morpeth to Longhirst Colliery
The second delay of the day due to traffic meant the X18 to Alnwick was around twenty minutes later than expected into Morpeth Bus Station. This was the final bus of the day and because no busses go to Longhirst Colliery the last appointment was to be reached by foot. Prior to setting off one passenger handed a handbag into the driver and another made room for an elderly gentleman struggling to walk. Some good comradeship on these busses.
5.25 Longhirst Village
The delayed bus meant getting to the surgery at Longhirst Colliery on time was now impossible. Made a phone call to ensure anyone waiting was aware of the delay. Last mile of the day on foot from beautiful Longhirst village to Longhirst Colliery. Roads and footpaths between the two communities were somewhat lacking in quality and was struck by the number of large vehicles and tractors using the road.
5.50 Longhirst Colliery
Arrived at the entrance to Longhirst Colliery seeing the communities bus stop that sadly has no services. Made the final journey to the newly renovated Longhirst Recreational Room for a surgery come public meeting. Very well attended. Issues raised included fly tipping, cost of fuel, isolation of community due to poor transport links and state of roads and pavements.