AN ambitious campaign to get essential infrastructure funding for the East Coast Mainline will be officially launched today.

The North East England Chamber of Commerce will use a gathering of business leaders at the Beacon of Light in Sunderland today to make the call for much-needed rail investment.

The aim is to attract investment to improve capacity on the rail route which runs from Edinburgh to London via Berwick, Newcastle, Durham and Darlington.

The Northern Echo:

At present there is only one track each for both directions between Berwick and Northallerton which results in inter-city, local and slow-moving freight trains all battling for space on crammed tracks.

Given the title Fast Track East Coast, the Chamber campaign urges the Government to commit to investing in the Mainline and ensure it is an integral part of Network Rail’s future plans.

Support has already come from North-East businesses including Chamber partner member Womble Bond Dickinson. The Chamber is now encouraging more companies to share stories of how and why rail connectivity is important to their businesses and plans for the future.

Last month, The Northern Echo joined forces with rival publishers to challenge Britain’s main political parties to commit to a package of policy measures to turbo-charge the North’s economy, with more than 30 newspapers calling on the main parties to narrow the North-South divide.

The demands on the Government include a bespoke Industrial Strategy, an overhaul the region’s road and rail network, additional investment for schools, a programme to build a new generation of social housing, and a fundamental shift in decision-making out of London.

James Ramsbotham, chief executive of NEECC, said: “We have fought for better connectivity between our region and the rest of the country for a number of years.

"The situation with our East Coast Mainline is now so urgent it has become an economic imperative – we have members who struggle to have reliable travel around the country and beyond and that costs them time and money.

“If we are to receive any benefit from both HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail, which will join the East Coast Mainline at York, substantial improvements need to be earmarked for funding.

"These key infrastructure projects will, in turn, be a catalyst for regional investment. They can also help to rebalance our national economy.”

Tim Wood, NPR Rail Director for Transport for the North said: “We would welcome any investment in the golden asset that East Coast Main Line is and we are currently working with partners to develop options for delivering this.

“Northern Powerhouse Rail is a transformational programme of rail investment that will radically improve capacity and journey times in the North East and across the North of England to deliver a much more effective rail system and unlock future prosperity.”

More information is available at and on twitter @FastTrackEC