PRESSURE is building on train operator LNER to reverse its decision after it announced plans to cut rail services in the region.

Labelled ‘The Great LNER Train Robbery’ by Darlington’s MP Peter Gibson, the operator has come under intense scrutiny from North-East leaders who fear the cuts will severely affect transport links.

Plans for a new East Coast Mainline timetable were described as a 'kick in the teeth' for the region after it was revealed Darlington would lose three trains per day to London.

The change is also set to half the frequency of trains between Newcastle and Manchester via Durham and Darlington.

Due to come into force in May 2022, the timetable will increase the number of trains between Newcastle and London from two to three trains per hour.

Read more: New rail timetable "kick in the teeth" for region

Darlington MP Peter Gibson said he has heard the frustration, anger and disappointment of locals about the planned reduction in services.

And after a meeting with David Horne, LNER chief executive, on Wednesday, Mr Gibson said the decision ‘simply is not good enough’.

He said: “It is clear that these plans have been a long time in the making and take no account of: £105million investment in our station; greater need due to Treasury, Department for International Trade and Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy jobs; and competition from Teesside Airport.

“As such in my view these reductions are ill conceived and are a kick in the teeth for Darlington.”

The Northern Echo: Darlington MP Peter GibsonDarlington MP Peter Gibson

Mr Gibson took aim at LNER and said the train provider ‘seems obsessed with increasing passenger numbers at Newcastle and Edinburgh’, which would have a detrimental impact on services in Darlington.

He added: “Fewer services and no alternative to the LNER long distance service. It simply is not good enough.”

Mr Gibson urged constituents to take part in the online consultation and said he will be meeting LNER again next week.

Plans to increase the frequency of services between Teesside, Sunderland, and Newcastle have also been postponed.

Responding to the proposed timetable changes, Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen said: “This news is a kick in the teeth for local people across Teesside, Darlington and Hartlepool.

“The proposed timetable changes that LNER have put forward remain wholly unacceptable and must be reversed.

“In recent days I have raised the issue with the Transport Secretary and Network Rail, and I look forward to meeting with LNER next week to discuss the deep concerns I, and local people have, regarding the severe cuts to services to London. This is not just about cuts to trains to the capital, but also the postponing of planned increases in services to Sunderland and Newcastle."

The Northern Echo: Darlington Railway Station. Picture: SARAH CALDECOTTDarlington Railway Station. Picture: SARAH CALDECOTT

Councillor Heather Scott, Leader of Darlington Borough Council, hopes to persuade LNER to reverse the controversial timetable decision.

"We need our transport links to be as strong as they can be – and having fewer trains calling at Darlington is simply not acceptable," she said.

But LNER defended its proposed timetable and said changes that benefit the area could take place in the future.

A spokesperson said: “Darlington had two London trains per hour, and an average of 1,100 passengers to and from London each day. Durham had fewer services and more customers.

“Once Darlington station capacity works are complete, we will work with our rail industry partners to consider timetable changes.”

Rail passengers can take part in an online consultation at: lner.citizenspace.com

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