THE East Coast Mainline is one of the key rail lines in the UK. It’s the main line from Edinburgh to London; passing through our region via Berwick, Newcastle, Durham and Darlington. Marianne O’Sullivan, a policy adviser at the North East England Chamber of Commerce, says: "It is a route vital for our region; connecting us not only to two capital cities but also to the rest of the strategic rail network. The rail network plays an important role in the region’s economy with commuters, business travellers, tourists and freight all using the East Coast Mainline to access the North-East.’

However, current capacity issues are currently holding the region’s economy back. Between Northallerton and Berwick there is only one-track running north and one-track running south. With all the local, intercity and freight trains running on these tracks there is no space for any more services and congestion causes minor issues to have a major impact causing delays.

With a predicted increase in demand for rail services these issues are likely to worsen in the future.

The North East England Chamber of Commerce has launched the Fast Track East Coast to campaign for capacity improvements to the East Coast Mainline and to highlight how the region can benefit from improved connectivity. Marianne said: "We need quality infrastructure to match the ambition of our region."

More capacity on the East Coast Mainline will improve local connections from Darlington around Tees Valley. Currently, longer distance trains are priority, and local services around Tees Valley crossing the East Coast Mainline at Darlington have limited space. There are major regeneration schemes for Darlington station to realign the station to help reduce this problem, but more capacity on the East Coast Mainline will provide additional space for more frequent local services around the Tees Valley, as well as to Newton Aycliffe, and Bishop Auckland.

In addition, more capacity for local connections will allow for increased reliability on longer distance journeys to destinations such as Birmingham, Edinburgh or Manchester from Durham or Darlington. Having both reliable local and national connections allows people to easily connect from local trains to reach a range of destinations across the UK. This will help with recruiting staff, make it easier to use rail to travel for meetings, as well as making new areas more attractive for investment

Currently very few trains stop at Chester-le-Street. More capacity opens up the possibility of a more frequent service, both locally to Newcastle but also to destinations such as Edinburgh or Manchester.

The Chamber has had case studies from Hodgson Sayers, based in County Durham, where MD John Sayers, talked about how his business uses rail links to travel to and from the region, saying: "Investment in the East Coast Mainline is important to make sure the infrastructure is sustainable for the future."

Cubic Transportation has also told the Chamber how better connections would help them to invest and expand their offices in Stockton.

Connections from the North-East to the rest of the North including Leeds, Liverpool and Sheffield need improving. The Chamber continues to support both HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail to help improve these links especially east-west. However, both HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail (NPR) trains are due to join the East Coast Mainline just outside of York. The sections between Northallerton and Berwick is fragile and already at capacity, it will not be able to cope with more trains.

The region urgently needs track improvements to allow HS2 and NPR to reach Darlington, Durham and Newcastle otherwise the region will lose out on any of the economic benefits. HS2 is already acting as a catalyst for investment in Birmingham, HS2 and NPR trains would also help with investment and regeneration such as around Central Park in Darlington and in Durham around Aykley Heads.

The Chamber will be working with partners, stakeholders and politicians both in the North-East, but also in other areas impacted by the East Coast Mainline.

The Chamber also needs businesses to get involved by giving their feedback on how improved rail connections can benefit their business. This can be through staff using rail to get to work, people using rail to get to meetings, customers or clients using rail to visit or the wider investment rail brings to the area.

Marianne says: ‘We need businesses to get in touch with us at to give us their feedback and to spread the message at We need contributions from businesses all across the region from different sizes to make the case to Government for investment to ensure that the region’s economy can continue to grow.”