Rail group plans talks for more off-peak services

A rail passenger group in Northumberland is hoping for more services as a new franchise begins on the East Coast Mainline.

Virgin and Stagecoach took over the franchise this week after more than five years of state ownership.

The new Virgin Trains East Coast service, which runs between London and Scotland, promises more seats, more services and new trains, with £140million of investment.

However, the South East Northumberland Rail User Group (SENRUG) hopes to meet with operators soon to discuss bringing more off-peak services to Morpeth, which are so far not included in the improvement plans.

SENRUG Chairman Dennis Fancett said: “We want to wish Virgin and Stagecoach well as they take over the franchise.

“Our aspiration is that eventually we will be able to convince them of the commercial case for more of their services to stop at Morpeth, particularly off-peak services. We have a good peak-hour service now, but we would like to see more off-peak services.

“That is not one of the things that they have said they are going to do so we need to have a discussion with them about that and help them to see that it could be commercially viable for them.”

The franchise, which runs until the end of March 2023, will provide 23 new services from London to ‘key destinations’, with 75 more station calls a day, 3,100 extra seats for morning peak time by 2020, with an additional 12,200 seats across the fleet, faster journey times, and 65 state-of-the-art Intercity Express trains brought into service from 2018.

“There will also be a £3million innovation fund, with £500,000 available each year from 2017 for projects suggested directly by customers and communities.

Mr Fancett said: “We need to look at the details of the fund to see what it is for. We know there are both railway initiatives and non-railway initiatives going on around Morpeth that might benefit, but it may not be SENRUG that gets involved in that, it could be other organisations.”

Our aspiration is that eventually we will be able to convince them of the commercial case for more of their services to stop at Morpeth.

Dennis Fancett South East Northumberland Rail User Group Chairman