A RAIL group has called on the Government to invest in the region's main train line to unlock billions of pounds of economic benefits.

Invest East Coast Rail is calling on the UK and Scottish governments to invest in the East Coast Main Line, after research conducted on their behalf found that economies served by it could see over £11 billion of wider benefits.

The group says these benefits could be unlocked if a coherent package of rail schemes, including the full delivery of HS2, was put into place on the East Coast Main Line.

The line is a key rail route taking 20 million passengers a year, connecting London and Edinburgh via Peterborough, Doncaster, York, Darlington, Durham and Newcastle.

However, constraints on the line can lead to significant disruption.

In 2018 alone, 12 major incidents occurred along the route costing the UK economy £46 million.

Localised and smaller incidents can also cause significant disruption across the rail network, but Invest East Coast Rail say if the number of delays on the line over ten-minutes were halved, this would deliver an additional £62.8 million per annum to the wider economy.

Members of Invest East Coast Rail are calling on the government to commit to funding to future-proof the line and to develop a clear long-term investment plan to ensure the route is ready to benefit from future national rail projects.

Cllr Keith Aspden, chair of Invest East Coast Rail and York City Council leader, said: “The East Coast Main Line is one of the UK’s strategic rail routes, but it has suffered from underinvestment and as a result is now struggling with demand.

“Without long-term funding to help tackle issues of capacity and resilience, the line will remain increasingly vulnerable to major disruptions which is why we are calling on the UK and Scottish governments to invest in the line now to ensure it is ready for new rail infrastructure projects, including HS2.

“This is all the more crucial considering the key role the line will play as an enabler to economic growth and recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic.”

Cllr Martin Gannon, Gateshead Council leader and chair of the North East Joint Transport Committee, added: “It’s good that partners up and down the East Coast Main Line have come together to press for investment, and we are also working with Transport for the North to make sure their plans are aligned as well.

"It’s high time that we saw a clear commitment from the government on upgrading the East Coast Main Line in the North-East.

"The existing line is already slow, unreliable, and over-capacity for our needs now, let alone for the future."

Cllr Gannon said it is 'absolutely essential' that upgrading the East Coast Main Line in the North-East region is at the centre of the Government's national integrated rail plan.