A SECRET review will push up fares and lead to train services being axed across the North-East, MPs warned last night.

A group of 12 Labour MPs raised the alarm over the revelation that the Strategic Rail Authority (SRA) is examining how to make savings on the Northern Rail franchise.

The new franchise, which runs trains through Darlington, Middlesbrough, Hartlepool, Sunderland and Newcastle, was handed to Anglo-Dutch operator Serco-NedRailways in December.

But the SRA has already ordered the review, to examine whether to raise fares, close lines and replace some services with buses, or to cut its £350m of annual subsidy.

Now the MPs, led by Manchester backbencher Graham Stringer, have tabled a parliamentary motion to urge the Government to step in if the SRA's recommendations are draconian.

The MPs fear that the rail authority will break its pledge that the new franchise would "bring to an end any remaining uncertainty over the future shape of rail services in the North of England".

Mr Stringer said: "I'm expecting significant changes, with lines closed and fares going up.

"I'm also as certain as I can be that jobs will be lost."

A spokesman for the SRA confirmed that it was commissioning an independent firm of consultants to conduct the review, who were expected to be appointed within weeks.

A strategy would be published in the summer and put out to a three-month consultation, with any changes introduced from December 2006.

The spokesman said: "We will not be taking a butcher's axe to major peak-time services, but there are some that are so little-used that they have only one passenger."