Double First boost for town's railway station
A rail group has expressed its delight that new services will be stopping at Morpeth Railway Station.
Following approval from the Office of Rail and Road, FirstGroup will run five trains a day from Morpeth to London, starting from May 2021.
This follows an earlier announcement that First will be extending its Liverpool–Manchester–Leeds–Newcastle trains onto Morpeth and Edinburgh as part of its TransPennine Express franchise from December 2019.
They will call at Morpeth hourly in each direction, making commuting to Edinburgh by train much more viable, improving current frequencies to Durham, York and Leeds and creating a new rail link to the north west.
The company will act as an ‘Open Access’ operator for its Edinburgh to London service, which will run alongside the existing trains operated by Virgin Trains East Coast.
The South East Northumberland Rail User Group (SENRUG) has been campaigning for many years to get a better provision of national and inter-regional trains at Morpeth.
Chairman Dennis Fancett said: “The unique thing about First’s bid for the East Coast Main Line is that all of its services will call at Morpeth.
“Northbound, they will run non-stop from Morpeth to Edinburgh and southbound the trains will call at Newcastle then fast to London, with some trains also serving Stevenage.
“In particular, First will provide an early morning service from London, which will reach Morpeth by 10am.
“It’s going to be a frustratingly long wait to 2019 and then 2021, but I think by the time all these services are on stream, Morpeth and south east Northumberland will at last be able to say it has the train services a town of this size deserves.
“We are extremely pleased that First has listened to the arguments and business case we have put forward for a better deal for Morpeth – it does make us feel the hours of voluntary effort we spend in rail campaigning is worth it and can achieve genuine game-changing results.”
SENRUG also expects improvements to Morpeth services from other rail companies.
Virgin Trains East Coast has indicated it will be making some improvements from December this year and the group has been in discussions with the Department for Transport (DfT) about CrossCountry services, which start a new contract with the DfT from the same date.
The group is also raising awareness of a new bus service that now serves Morpeth Railway Station.
Route S1, operated by PCL Travel, leaves Morpeth bus station Mondays to Saturdays at 7.30am, 8.40am, 11.35am, 2.05pm, 5.05pm and 6pm.
From the railway station turning circle, buses to the town centre leave at 7.05am, 9.50am, 12.20pm, 2.50pm, 4.40pm and 5.50pm. The same bus also connects the station with Clifton and Stannington.
Tim O’Toole, chief executive of FirstGroup, said: “Passengers will benefit from an average fare of less than £25 – half the price of today – free Wi-Fi and on-board catering.”