Call for LNER to change course on timetable plans

A rail campaign group has submitted a seven-point plan to save rail services in Northumberland that are facing the axe following the release of draft timetables for May 2022.

Friday, 30th July 2021, 12:15 pm
Platforms at Morpeth Railway Station.

SENRUG (South East Northumberland Rail User Group) has now issued its final response to the LNER consultation and others, and says that whilst cutting overall journey time from London to Edinburgh is of some benefit to London passengers, it does not justify the huge reductions in service proposed for Northumberland – including withdrawal of all TransPennine Express trains and all off-peak LNER services at Morpeth and a significant reduction in the number of trains serving Berwick.

Dennis Fancett, SENRUG chairman, said: “Our argument is that an extra few minutes on the train is not time lost to business. Modern trains have high quality on-board wifi and comfortable seating, and many long-distance services have a great catering offer too.

“But the time spent in changing trains is most definitely time lost to business.

“The new timetables will result in many journeys that can be made on a direct train today no longer being possible without changing. This includes Morpeth to MetroCentre and Hexham, Morpeth to Manchester and, off-peak, Morpeth to Alnmouth (where passengers will be expected to travel to Berwick and come back), and Morpeth to Peterborough. Newcastle will also lose its direct service to Manchester Airport.

“As such, we find the proposed timetables to be London-centric. They fail to ‘level-up’ and certainly do not ‘build back better’.”

SENRUG has therefore proposed seven key amendments to the draft timetables. These include TransPennine Express services continuing north of Newcastle, calling at each of Morpeth, Alnmouth and Berwick, providing the crucial connectivity needed between these stations.

It says two LNER trains per day each way should continue to call at Morpeth off peak, in particular the morning Aberdeen service which is heavily used. It also wants Northern services to continue beyond Newcastle to MetroCentre, Hexham and Carlisle, and points out that all our local trains terminating at Newcastle would be a deterrent to those looking for jobs at MetroCentre and needing to commute by train.

“There is no real reason why faster LNER trains stop our local services connecting across Newcastle” said Mr Fancett.

“This seems to be designed for the operational convenience of timetable planners, not with customers’ interests in mind. It certainly won’t help Northern to promote leisure journeys either.”

The other points in SENRUG’s consultation response concern the need to have earlier commuter trains from Cramlington, to retain all local trains calling at Manors, and to have some LNER services from Morpeth to London on Sundays, which the draft timetables are proposing to remove.

Also, SENRUG says now is the time to create the paths required for the Northumberland Line trains, due to open in 2023, and indeed for the new local Newcastle to Berwick service calling at all stations that the group has been campaigning for actively.

SENRUG’s full response can be seen online at www.senrug.co.uk under the ‘Documents We’ve Issued’ section.