RAIL campaigners in the North East are unhappy that County Durham, Tyneside and Northumberland have been left out of the advisory panel set up by the Government to help lead the Northern rail franchise.

The Government took over the direct management of Northern services from Arrive Rail North on March 1 as an Operator of Last Resort following a series of problems with infrastructure and services.

The North East branch of Railfuture, a voluntary group that campaigns for a bigger and better railway, said that it is not right that most parts of the Northern railway network are represented on Northern Trains Limited, apart from those managed by the North East Joint Transport Committee.

The group’s chairman Keith Simpson said: “There is already a tendency of Northern’s management to over-focus on the Leeds – Manchester corridor, and not consider the requirements of key commuter routes into Newcastle.

“The absence of a strong voice round the table representing this region is a worrying further development of that, leaving us with little confidence that this region will, even under government ownership, receive the rail service it deserves which is so necessary to re-invigorating the local economy.

“Who for instance will be considering the requirements of Cramlington, Northumberland’s largest town with a rail station with population of 35,000, but without a train arriving into Newcastle before 8.15am, and then only an hourly service after that? And what about delivering on the objective to cut 20 minutes off the rail journey time between Teesside and Tyneside, by running passenger services over the Stillington freight line, or delivering new stations at Team Valley, Ferryhill and Gilsland?

“We urgently call on the Department For Transport to appoint a local authority representative from the North East Joint Transport Committee, to augment the expert panel and confirm there is a level playing field across all the regions in the North.”

A DfT spokesperson said: “The newly appointed panel will provide a strategic sounding-board to the new operator during the transitional period as we look to improve services for passengers across the whole of the North.”
They said the new Northern operator, and TransPeninne Express, will continue to be jointly managed by Transport for the North and the Department under the existing Partnership Arrangements.
Adding that Transport for the North, which provides a voice for the North East, is represented in the new panel.