County stations ‘must be part of extension’

A rail passenger group has urged bidders for the new TransPennine Express franchise to have trains stop at Morpeth and other stations in Northumberland if an extension to Edinburgh is approved.

Three companies – First Group, Keolis/Go Ahead and Stagecoach – are bidding to take on the route. The start date is 2016.

A request was made by the South East Northumberland Rail User Group (SENRUG) that the Department for Transport (DfT) included the requirement to extend services to Cramlington and Morpeth.

Although this was not included in its TransPennine Express specification, the DfT has asked bidders for priced options, the additional cost for extra to the basic requirements, for extending the service from Newcastle to Edinburgh.

As a result, SENRUG has written to all three bidders suggesting that if trains are going to go to the Scottish capital, they should stop at Cramlington, Morpeth, Alnmouth, Berwick and Dunbar.

Group chairman Dennis Fancett said: “In our initial submission, we said that the TransPennine Express trains currently come into Newcastle and wait for 55 minutes, so they could go to Cramlington and Morpeth and back again and there wouldn’t be a need for the service to have any extra trains.

“Now that the potential extension to Edinburgh has emerged, we have stressed that if this happens, the trains should stop at the main Northumberland stations.

“We have no interest in yet more trains flying through these stations without stopping.

“Even if the extension to Edinburgh does not go ahead, we hope the winning bidder will recognise the benefits of extending to Cramlington and Morpeth.”

The new Northern Rail franchise is set to start at the same time and there are three different companies wishing to take it on – Abellio Northern, Arriva Rail North and Govia Northern.

As previously reported, SENRUG has welcomed the inclusion of an evening and Sunday service to Morpeth and Cramlington in the specification.

But it is very disappointed that it does not include the extension of the service to the Pegswood and Widdrington stations.