Councils call for faster rail links with London

COUNCIL STATEMENT: A First TransPennine Express train at Yarm Station.

COUNCIL STATEMENT: A First TransPennine Express train at Yarm Station.

First published in News The Northern Echo: Photograph of the Author by , Regional Chief Reporter

REDUCING the journey time for trains travelling between London and Newcastle to two-and-a-half hours has been identified as a key aim by North-East councils.

A direct service from Middlesbrough to the capital is also a vital addition, according to the North East Rail Statement - a report produced this week by the Association of North East Council (Anec) with the region's two local enterprise partnerships.

The statement sets out the council's short, medium and long-term aspirations for improving the region's rail network.

The document notes that with a new contractors being sought for the East Coast Main Line (ECML)and the Northern Rail and TransPennine Express services, there has never been a more important time for the region to engage with the Government and the rail industry to improve the network.

The report states: "Through strong cross-party political leadership and support, we are adopting a strategic approach to making a compelling case for rail improvements and investment in support of our economic priorities, including tourism and business growth opportunities.

"In this context, our engagement with national decision-makers will continue to be of enormous strategic importance."

The aspirations and aims include:

- Engaging with Department for Transport and Intercity East Coast franchise bidders to push for the journey from London to Newcastle to be cut to 2hr 30min.

- The introduction of direct services from London to Middlesbrough when the ECML franchise is awarded later this year.

- Work with Network Rail to ensure the Darlington station improvements and capacity constraints between Northallerton and Newcastle are tackled as soon as possible.

- Maintaining the direct hourly service between Middlesbrough and Manchester Airport.

- Improving rolling stock on all Northern routes in the North-East including the removal of the unpopular Pacer trains.

Other aims for the councils include extended hours of operation on the Bishop Line, Tees Valley and Esk Valley routes, and the introduction of a second hourly service to Newcastle from Manchester.

Pushing for the electrification of the ECML to Middlesbrough and Teesport is also identified as an important target.

The report concludes that maintaining the status quo with regard to the region's rail network is not an option.

"Our aspiration for the future is a rail network that will help us realise our economic growth potential for the benefit of the whole of the North-East," it adds.

Comments (6)

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9:11am Thu 4 Sep 14

David Lacey says...

When the new Hitachi trains start running in 4 years time a 150 minute Newcastle to Kings Cross timing will be perfectly feasible. We don't need HS2 - just more investment in electrification and better local running stock.
When the new Hitachi trains start running in 4 years time a 150 minute Newcastle to Kings Cross timing will be perfectly feasible. We don't need HS2 - just more investment in electrification and better local running stock. David Lacey
  • Score: 1

9:55am Thu 4 Sep 14

pilchrat says...

Shame the government has already said we won't get replacements for Pacers. At best, a refurbishment is on the cards unless there's a typical "u-turn".

However, if new trains means a wallet-bursting fare hike, then I'd rather they go for refurbishment. Look at the East Coast trains. They were completely refurbished years ago and they are quite comfortable. It's not beyond reason that they couldn't go slightly further than a lick of paint and re-upholstering. Though I've seen Northern's "refurbishments" in the past; all that happened was the lights were replaced and a minging pastel-purple paint replaced the yellowing paint of old, and some new "lino" on the floor. Wowee. Same old seats.

Deep clean the insides, especially the heating bits where if you look it's a wasteland of spilled drinks, crisps, hair, yuck it doesn't bear thinking about.

Fit some better seats with fractionally more leg room. They'll absorb the bumps better.

Fit some destination matrix things inside that tell you your next stop - it's surely just a box of tricks that could be fitted to any train.

Improve the heaters, again surely could be retrofitted, so the trains are either comfortably warm in winter or so that the air is blown around a bit in summer.

The Pacers are a bit rubbish but a serious refurbishment, beyond just paint and upholstery, would probably make them last a little longer.

Can't wait for the Hitachi trains on the East Coast.
Shame the government has already said we won't get replacements for Pacers. At best, a refurbishment is on the cards unless there's a typical "u-turn". However, if new trains means a wallet-bursting fare hike, then I'd rather they go for refurbishment. Look at the East Coast trains. They were completely refurbished years ago and they are quite comfortable. It's not beyond reason that they couldn't go slightly further than a lick of paint and re-upholstering. Though I've seen Northern's "refurbishments" in the past; all that happened was the lights were replaced and a minging pastel-purple paint replaced the yellowing paint of old, and some new "lino" on the floor. Wowee. Same old seats. Deep clean the insides, especially the heating bits where if you look it's a wasteland of spilled drinks, crisps, hair, yuck it doesn't bear thinking about. Fit some better seats with fractionally more leg room. They'll absorb the bumps better. Fit some destination matrix things inside that tell you your next stop - it's surely just a box of tricks that could be fitted to any train. Improve the heaters, again surely could be retrofitted, so the trains are either comfortably warm in winter or so that the air is blown around a bit in summer. The Pacers are a bit rubbish but a serious refurbishment, beyond just paint and upholstery, would probably make them last a little longer. Can't wait for the Hitachi trains on the East Coast. pilchrat
  • Score: 0

10:09am Thu 4 Sep 14

gramps427 says...

So further evidence that the councils in this region are aiding in shutting down Tees Valley Airport for the benefit of Peel! They are particularly concerned to keep an hourly train between Middlesbrough and Manchester Airport. That train passes by my flat and is mostly empty; why are they not insisting on the creation of the metro line to improve local connections. Does the Boro have sufficient numbers of travellers making this traffic viable? The inability of our policy makers and their advisor's to come up with a consistent and viable transport strategy is truly frightening.
So further evidence that the councils in this region are aiding in shutting down Tees Valley Airport for the benefit of Peel! They are particularly concerned to keep an hourly train between Middlesbrough and Manchester Airport. That train passes by my flat and is mostly empty; why are they not insisting on the creation of the metro line to improve local connections. Does the Boro have sufficient numbers of travellers making this traffic viable? The inability of our policy makers and their advisor's to come up with a consistent and viable transport strategy is truly frightening. gramps427
  • Score: 1

11:25am Thu 4 Sep 14

David Lacey says...

The Boro to Manchester Airport train fills up at York where passengers from Newcastle have to switch trains.
The Boro to Manchester Airport train fills up at York where passengers from Newcastle have to switch trains. David Lacey
  • Score: 1

1:33pm Thu 4 Sep 14

AndyAsh says...

If the direct train from Middlesbrough to Manchester Airport is empty then change the route from Newcastle back to a direct one! That train was always busy when I used it.

I'm surprised that the councils aren't keen on introducing a express service between Middlesbrough, Stockton & Newcastle. There is a freight line between Stockton & Ferryhill and then either via the ECML or a reopened Leamside line through Washington & Heworth.

I think ease of connections and journey times within the North East need to be improved, probably centralised on Newcastle as the regional capital, therefore encouraging and spreading growth out throughout the region.
If the direct train from Middlesbrough to Manchester Airport is empty then change the route from Newcastle back to a direct one! That train was always busy when I used it. I'm surprised that the councils aren't keen on introducing a express service between Middlesbrough, Stockton & Newcastle. There is a freight line between Stockton & Ferryhill and then either via the ECML or a reopened Leamside line through Washington & Heworth. I think ease of connections and journey times within the North East need to be improved, probably centralised on Newcastle as the regional capital, therefore encouraging and spreading growth out throughout the region. AndyAsh
  • Score: 1

5:01pm Thu 4 Sep 14

David Lacey says...

I agree that a fast Tees/Tyne link is desperately needed. The current route along the coast is geriatric. With regard to the Newcastle to Manchester Airport service I can't understand why it doesn't run through the night so that early morning long haul flights can be joined without an overnight stay in an airport hotel.
.
If you want to fly across the Atlantic it is easier to fly down to Heathrow than to get to Manchester. How crazy is that?
I agree that a fast Tees/Tyne link is desperately needed. The current route along the coast is geriatric. With regard to the Newcastle to Manchester Airport service I can't understand why it doesn't run through the night so that early morning long haul flights can be joined without an overnight stay in an airport hotel. . If you want to fly across the Atlantic it is easier to fly down to Heathrow than to get to Manchester. How crazy is that? David Lacey
  • Score: 1

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