IT IS just before 8am on Wednesday morning and the LNER train rolls into the station on time.

I began my journey at Newcastle station and travelled to Leeds to hear metro mayors and councillors from across the North discuss the Government’s new Integrated Rail Plan.

The changes are set to impact the cities of Bradford, Leeds and Sheffield the most - but it is also the North East that will be affected by the scaled-back proposals.

In fact, the North East won’t hugely benefit from the Government’s plan, with only “rapid” upgrades to the East Coast Main Line - which serves Darlington and Durham stations - proposed by Transport Secretary.


Follow reporter Bill Edgar's journey above

Read more: Leaders accuse Government rail plans of ignoring North East

It is those upgrades that will improve journey times from the region to major cities around the country, and my journey down to Leeds was the perfect opportunity to assess the current state of play on the tracks.

The London-bound LNER train was set to take 171 minutes from Newcastle to the capital, but that will be slashed to 148 minutes, according to the Government.

Journey times from Darlington to London will be slashed from 142 minutes to 125.

I arrived into Darlington and York ahead of schedule and with plenty of time to spare. But it is other areas of the rail network in the North where recurring problems lie.

As I change trains at York and head towards the Leeds-bound Northern train, the Transpennine Express service to Edinburgh, calling at Darlington, Durham,Chester-le-Street and Newcastle, is delayed by 12 minutes. Express it is not.

It is delays like these which led Northern leaders to draw up plans for ‘Northern Powerhouse Rail’ - a new railway line between Liverpool and Leeds, which would include upgrades in the North East.

Read more: Train journey times from the North East slashed

My journey from York to Leeds stopped off at small villages and arrives on time, proving the effectiveness of inter-city rail networks and shows why leaders in the North East are campaigning to reinstate the Leamside Line.

The impressive connectivity between the North East and London is widely celebrated but there is no reason why this cannot be replicated across the whole North.

The fact it can take just 27 minutes more to travel to London than it does to Manchester from Darlington is bewildering.

My journey home will be aboard the Transpennine Express but whether it will be an ‘express’ service remains unknown.

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