The South East Northumberland Rail User Group (SENRUG) has strongly criticised the Department For Transport’s (DfT’s) proposal to cut Cross Country trains stopping at smaller stations such as Morpeth, Alnmouth and Berwick.
Its formal response to the DfT consultation includes stating that this contradicts Network Rail’s proposals, which has said that there should be more calls at smaller stations by long distance operators as local services cannot cater for demand.
The reason for the suggestion for trains to miss out smaller stations near large conurbations, either permanently or at peak times, is to help reduce overcrowding experienced by people on long-distance journeys.
It is one of a number of ideas in a public consultation about the future of the Cross Country Passenger Rail Franchise.
SENRUG says that Cross Country services at Alnmouth and Berwick should be retained at the same level with a modest increase at Morpeth, which should have a service every two hours.
However, it wants the times of the trains co-ordinated with those of Government-run LNER, rather than have two trains in six minutes then nothing for three hours, as Morpeth currently experiences on Sundays.
SENRUG chairman Dennis Fancett said: “The Cross Country stops at Morpeth were first introduced using the time the trains waited at signals outside Edinburgh and Newcastle stations, and did not add to the overall journey times for travelling between these cities.
“Cutting out stops at places such as Morpeth and laying on extra local trains – even if these were available – is more likely to slow Cross Country trains down, as there would be more track congestion.”
The group agrees Cross Country trains are too crowded and it is the biggest problem facing the network.
“We think the answer is longer trains, with a significant number of extra seats,” said Mr Fancett.
SENRUG also proposes a sophisticated seat reservation system so that passengers travelling on longer journeys are not frequently disturbed by those on short hops.
The consultation document, and details of how to respond, are at www.gov.uk/government/consultations/cross-country-rail-franchise
This consultation closes at 11.45pm on August 30.