STATION: Fighting for services

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I would like to make a few comments about the letter from Mr Pattie concerning the plan to move Cramlington Station, (News Post Leader, August 17).

The plan to move Cramlington Station was originally put forward by SENRUG as one element of an ambitious scheme to provide an integrated town centre bus and rail station, with adjacent taxi rank and plenty of easily accessible parking for rail passengers.

We were pleased that the previous council adopted the scheme and started to move forward with it.

But there was never any suggestion that Virgin or Cross Country trains would stop at Cramlington, as Mr Pattie states.

That is pure dreamland and came from people who never studied SENRUG’s original plans.

However, from 2019, the new Transpennine Express services will be passing through Cramlington on its Edinburgh – Leeds – Liverpool route, and there is a good chance the operator could be persuaded to stop at Cramlington, thus doubling the frequency at this station to two trains each way per hour and opening up direct journey opportunities to Edinburgh, Durham, York, Leeds and Manchester.

The trains on this new service will only have time to make two or three calls between Newcastle and Edinburgh so Cramlington is in competition with other locations in north Northumberland and the Scottish borders.

The present location of the station, with poor car parking and no bus interconnectivity, is not an attractive proposition for a train operator, but a town centre station, adjacent to the shopping centre, with adequate car parking and next to new housing developments, would be far more positive.

It is important to note the original plans put forward by SENRUG were designed to be cost-neutral to the county council as contributions could have been extracted from developers and Manor Walks, which would all benefit from the scheme.

However, in the meantime, the council bought Manor Walks and many of the developments have been permitted to proceed without a contribution being extracted.

The new council administration has signalled it does not, therefore, want to go ahead with the scheme on grounds of cost.

Within a few years, Cramlington will be Northumberland’s largest town. It is difficult to find anywhere else in the country where a county’s premier town is not served by a town centre station and a train service of at least half-hourly.

Northumberland commuters have recently learned they will face a 3.1 per cent increase in the price of season tickets. The suspicion is that most of that money will go to fund improvements to the rail network in London and the Home Counties. Whatever remnant is left over for the north is unlikely to get any nearer to us than Leeds.

SENRUG is trying to reverse this trend, and wants to see bold rail investment projects delivered here in Northumberland.

That means having the vision to put forward schemes and the persistence in negotiating for our fair share of the investment pie. We very much need the support of both our local authority and the community as a whole to achieve these objectives.

Meanwhile, we continue to campaign for improved train service frequency at Cramlington, though this becomes significantly harder without the station relocation going ahead.

Dennis Fancett

Chairman SENRUG: The South East Northumberland Rail User Group