A CAMPAIGN for a direct train service between Middlesbrough and London is building up steam.

Direct links to the capital city have not existed for 20 years, however, the Government has announced that a new franchise for the East Coast Main Line will be established as from February 2015.

Middlesbrough Council is now urging Teesside residents to sign a petition launched by Middlesbrough MP Andy McDonald for a direct rail link between Middlesbrough and Kings Cross to be included in the network plan.

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Town mayor Ray Mallon said: "I have had a number of discussions with Andy McDonald regarding this subject and I believe it to be of huge importance.

"There is no doubt a direct rail link between Middlesbrough and London would be of great benefit to Teesside and enhance the local economy significantly.

"It is not before time that the rail link - and the Tees Valley Metro project - is pushed forward for the good of local people and business."

Mr McDonald added: "I am inviting all three potential bidders Stagecoach/Virgin, Keolis/Eurostar and First Group to commit to including the high speed service in their tenders for the ECML contract.

“So far, there are positive indications they will do that. However, we must keep pressing them to ensure those aspirations come to fruition.

"I am confident of support from the local business community from the initial soundings I have taken and will now build momentum among the public of Middlesbrough and across Teesside in support of my campaign.”

To sign the online petition visit www.change.org and search for ‘Restore the direct high speed rail service between Middlesbrough and London’