Fears over future of station’s service


Concerns have been raised over the future of Morpeth station under new proposals for the East Coast mainline.

Campaign group SENRUG (South East Northumberland Rail Users Group) is concerned that vital services currently provided at the station are not protected.

Specification for the new East Coast Main Line rail service, recently published by the Department for Transport, does not include the station.

Three companies are currently bidding for the franchise, taking over the running of the line from March 2015, but can withdraw any service that is not “franchise protected” – including Morpeth.

SENRUG chairman Dennis Fancett said the franchise specification, now available on the government website, is a long and complex document.

He added: “But as far as we can see, the all important early morning Monday to Friday southbound connection from Morpeth to the Flying Scotsman service with current arrival in London by 9.40am is no longer a specified requirement.

“The earliest requirement for arrival in London from Morpeth reverts to 10.05am, making that 10am business meeting impossible once again.

“Although the operator is required to retain the two direct services from Morpeth to London, it is not stipulated that one of them must offer a connection at Newcastle to the Flying Scotsman.”

Other links which are not earmarked as protected including a late Friday service and two services on both Saturday and Sunday.

And the franchise specification does not include any improvements for service at Morpeth, either immediately or from the introduction of new rolling stock in 2020

“What is most frustrating is that some of the current services such as the ability to arrive in London in time for a 10am meeting, and the choice of two evening trains back, were only introduced in 2011 following an intense campaign from SENRUG and other groups,” said Mr Fancett.

“It was accepted at the time the needs of Northumberland had been overlooked and improvements were made, but now we seem to be in the same position all over again.”

SENRUG has written to the DfT asking for confirmation their analysis of the franchise specification is correct, and if so, requesting an amendment be issued to protect the current level of service at Morpeth.