BEFORE the pandemic, the East Coast Main Line was running at capacity, which is why we supported the construction of HS2 to Leeds as a way of freeing up some of the tracks.

In County Durham, the reopening of the Leamside line, from the Ferryhill area into Tyneside, has been talked about for a decade as another way of increasing main line capacity. However, with its track lifted, it would be a very expensive project.

No one knows how rail travel will recover in the post-pandemic world. Has Zoom killed off the need for a costly business journey?

Last week, the main line timetable for 2022 was released for consultation, and it is trying to juggle these difficult capacity issues. However, it does propose a cut by a third in the main line trains out of Darlington, it does effectively halve the trans-Pennine trains from Manchester running through the Tees Valley and it postpones the increased frequency in trains between Teesside and Newcastle.

All in all, the Tees Valley has been harshly treated – and at a time when mega-money is coming through to increase the capacity of Darlington’s Bank Top station.

The proposed timetable, therefore, seems a retrograde step for our rail travellers and for those arguing for the station upgrade. Indeed, it feels as if the rail industry is trying to shoot itself in the foot, and we hope that during the consultation it can be persuaded at the very least not to worsen its pre-pandemic service.