TEESSIDE MPs and metro mayor have called on the Government to step in and prevent proposed timetable changes set to cut rail services in the region.

Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen was joined by Simon Clarke, Conservative MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, and Jacob Young, Conservative MP for Redcar, in criticising LNER and the proposed new East Coast Mainline timetable.

Following the publication of the draft timetable in June, Mr Houchen wrote to the boss of LNER raising major concerns about the proposed timetable.

But after multiple attempts to get the train operator to commit to reversing their decisions to drastically cut services for Teesside, Darlington and Hartlepool, he has now asked the Transport Secretary Grant Shapps to intervene.

READ MORE: LNER urged to rethink Darlington timetable cuts

Mr Houchen warned the change will risk a repeat of the “catastrophe” seen in 2018 when a new timetable caused widespread chaos on the rail network.

Writing to Grant Shapps, the metro mayor urged the transport boss to halt the implementation of the new timetable for 12-months, and told him to“urgently bring the rail operators together and look to arrange a twelve month delay in concluding the new timetable, so that solutions can be explored and better proposals can be brought forward.”

The proposed delay would not affect the introduction of the new direct Middlesbrough to London service, which will start late this year, but would mean Darlington would lose three trains per day to London.

Mr Houchen said: “The timetable put forward by LNER is not fit for purpose and is wholly unacceptable.

“Across Teesside, Darlington and Hartlepool we’ve taken a joined-up approach where transport investments support job creation, but if this timetable is introduced it will slam the progress we are making to improve our rail services into reverse, undoing years of hard work and investment and make Teesside less attractive to global investment.”

The timetable also includes a proposed 50 per cent reduction in TransPennine Express services at Darlington.

What did Teesside MPs say? 

Simon Clarke MP issued LNER with a formal objection to the proposals on behalf of his constituents.

In his letter, Mr Clarke said: “To reduce LNER services at this time would be to fail to reflect the fast-changing situation in this part of the country.

“At a minimum, I would suggest that any change in the number of services calling at Darlington should not occur until the full programme of Middlesbrough services has become operational, which will be six or seven trains a day.

"To lose four northbound and four southbound services each day calling at our principal local station would be a major blow to Teesside’s economy and would have a significant impact on our regional connectivity.

"The timing of this proposal is highly undesirable because the Government has just announced a major programme of bringing thousands of civil service roles out of London, with HM Treasury, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and the Department for International Trade all choosing Darlington as their regional base."

Earlier this month, Jacob Young MP raised the issue in Parliament, and was successful in petitioning Leader of the House, Jacob Rees-Mogg MP, to take the matter up with the Transport Secretary Grant Shapps.

He told the House of Commons: "Delaying this timetable change would allow a proper assessment of the impact, not only of coronavirus on the trains, but of the massive Government investment going into Teesside with our new freeport and Treasury North.

"Crucially, a delay would provide more time to develop the business case to introduce a direct Redcar to London service which, I'm sure the Leader of the House agrees would be a great addition to the network."

Read Ben Houchen's letter to Transport Secretary Grant Shapps in full below: 

The Northern Echo:


The Northern Echo:


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