'Spooked' LNER could scrap plans to cut rail services in Northumberland

Campaigners fighting plans which could see 24 rail services a day cut from timetables in Northumberland believe transport chiefs may be preparing to u-turn on the proposals.

Thursday, 29th July 2021, 9:24 am
Updated Thursday, 29th July 2021, 10:14 am
Campaigners are confident LNER might scrap plans to overhaul its rail timetable due to a public backlash.

Campaigners are growing in confidence that a controversial overhaul of rail timetables in Northumberland could be scrapped after bosses were ‘spooked’ by the level of outcry.

Berwick and Morpeth are expected to be two of the biggest losers in the North East from the plans to slash timetables in the hope of speeding up journeys between London, Newcastle and Edinburgh.

And with a consultation on the proposals due to end soon, the public is being urged to have their say on the reforms and secure a better deal for the region’s travellers.

“LNER’s proposals for Northumberland – especially for services to Berwick and Morpeth stations – focus on slightly reducing journey times between major cities at the expense of the communities who rely on rail services to access work, healthcare and education,” said Berwick MP Anne-Marie Trevelyan.

“I know from my discussions with LNER about their proposals that they are not a ‘done deal’ and we have the opportunity to let them know why their rail services are so vital to our communities and the growth and future prosperity of Northumberland.

“I have made my concerns known to LNER and responded to their consultation, and I would urge as many local residents as possible to take part before the deadline.”

Northumberland faces seeing 24 services a day cut from timetables under plans being considered by LNER and the other operators on the East Coast Mainline.

The package of changes, which has been widely condemned by North East leaders since it was unveiled earlier this year, is expected to shave just five minutes off a journey between London and Newcastle.

Morpeth faces taking the biggest hit, with LNER removing all services stopping at Morpeth between 8am and 8pm, Monday to Saturday.

Berwick would see trains to London, York, Darlington, Newcastle and Edinburgh cut from the current schedule of one per hour, to one every two hours, although transport chiefs have suggested other operators could fill the gaps in timetables with new options.

“I think there’s a very good chance that, because of the pressure put on LNER by the public and by politicians, they have been spooked,” said Georgina Hill, Northumberland County Councillor for Berwick.

“As a result, I think there’s a very good chance we could force a rethink.

“If people haven’t already completed the consultation form, do it – keep up the pressure.”

The proposals have prompted fears some workers who rely on rail services for their commutes within the county could be left high and dry if they were introduced.

The South East Northumberland Rail User Group (SENRUG) has slammed the programme as ‘London-centric’ and called for a new approach, including preserving direct rail links between Morpeth and Hexham and reinstating stops at Manors and Cramlington on services between Newcastle and Morpeth.

SENRUG is also due to speak at a final public meeting on the changes at Berwick Town Hall on Monday, August 2, at 5pm.

A spokesman for LNER declined to comment while the consultation is still ongoing.