A COUNCIL is protesting at plans to scale back a planned £4bn upgrade of the East Coast Main Line.

Durham County Council is seeking a meeting with the head of the Strategic Rail Authority (SRA), Keith Bowker, over the authority's decision to spend only £1bn on the line between London and Scotland.

The council is concerned that the move will scupper the reopening of the mothballed Leamside line between Ferryhill and Pelaw in Gateshead.

It will hit plans to separate freight and high-speed passenger trains on the key route.

The SRA's decision will also hit plans to open more stations in east Durham on the Durham coast line between Sunderland and Teesside and remove funding for a planned freight interchange at Tursdale, near Spennymoor.

Improvements on the line will instead focus on stretches of track further south.

The council's Labour leader Ken Manton said: "The SRA's decision to focus on a very few major projects would appear to be contrary to the aims of the Government's Ten Year Plan for Transport, the Regional Transport Strategy and the Local Transport Plans of the council and its regional partners. We are most concerned about the long-term effects of the sudden decision to cut expenditure.

The council is calling for the original programme to be reinstated and wants a meeting with Transport Secretary Alistair Darling.