TRANSPORT: Efforts are not half -hearted

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I must take issue with your Transport columnist John Wylde who wrote in his otherwise excellent article ‘electrification changes are on the way’ (June 16) that ‘there has been some half-hearted pressure for many years to restore passenger (rail) services in South East Northumberland’.

Very few people who are familiar with the work of SENRUG – The South East Northumberland Rail User Group, would describe our campaigning efforts as ‘half-hearted’.

What other local rail campaign group has achieved three meetings with government ministers, two of which were on site at Ashington?

Why is it that an official from the Department For Transport described SENRUG’s submission for more CrossCountry trains to call at Morpeth ‘one of the best he had ever seen’ at a meeting in the Mayor’s parlour at Morpeth Town Hall last December? And how come SENRUG won three national awards for its work in 2014 and one the year before that?

These accolades are not given lightly and all the evidence is that SENRUG is both a highly effective and well regarded as a campaign group both locally and nationally.

It was SENRUG who lobbied all three bidders for the TransPennine Express franchise for their services to be extended from Newcastle to Cramlington and Morpeth.

Stops at Morpeth on the new hourly service, starting in 2019, have been confirmed though we are still fighting for Cramlington.

Again it was SENRUG who met with First Group to discuss its aspirations for a new London–Edinburgh service, pointing out how poorly Morpeth is served at present, with the result that First has confirmed its five new Edinburgh to London services, starting from 2021, which will all call at Morpeth in addition to Newcastle then non-stop to Stevenage and London.

SENRUG’s campaigning has also resulted in the doubling of East Coast train services from Morpeth to London in 2011, for lifts, a Customer Information System and loudspeaker announcements to be installed at Morpeth station and for a Customer Information System and loudspeaker announcements at Cramlington too.

It is a pity that the Morpeth Herald allows its columnist talks down a group that is doing so much for the town.

However, Mr Wylde is right to say that no matter how strong the campaigning is, new routes can not be re-opened without political will.

Our politicians must speak for themselves but after 12 years of campaigning and lobbying, SENRUG is convinced Northumberland County Council has firmly grasped the nettle and is fully committed to progressing SENRUG’s campaign to re-introduce passenger rail services between Newcastle and Ashington and hopefully Woodhorn.

Nevertheless, as the project moves through the Network Rail process, SENRUG would appreciate a more collaborative approach being adopted by the council as we believe the two organisations working in partnership could save both time and money.

But no matter how much SENRUG has achieved, there is much we are still fighting for. The more members we speak for, the louder our voice and we invite those who support our objectives to become members of the group – details are at www.senrug.co.ukalong with details of all the campaigns mentioned above.

Dennis Fancett

Chairman, SENRUG: The South East Northumberland Rail User Group