Rail group calling for improvements

A rail group campaigning for better rail transport in south east Northumberland has outlined how services could be improved in the area.

The South East Northumberland Rail Users’ Group (SENRUG) is calling for the improvements in its response to the current Department For Transport’s (DfT) consultation on the new Northern & TransPennine Express franchises.

Top of the list comes the full re-opening of the Ashington Blyth & Tyne line, a project which SENRUG has been campaigning for over a number of years, and which is now being progressed by Northumberland County Council.

The group is also requesting dramatic improvements in services to Cramlington and Morpeth, to make these every 30 minutes during the day and hourly in the evenings and on Sundays.

SENRUG chairman Dennis Fancett said: “SENRUG believes this improvement, justified by proposed further population growth in Cramlington, could be achieved very easily by extending the TransPennine Expresses services on from Newcastle, rather than have these units sit idle for 55 minutes in Newcastle before returning south.

“Only London and the South East have higher fares per mile than here, and in London, commuters get a ten coach train every ten minutes, we get a two coach train every hour. The service is not comparable.

“Furthermore, the DfT should be looking at rail fares as a percentage of average regional salaries, as earnings in this area are on average much lower.”

Other proposals in SENRUG’s response include extending some Morpeth trains on to Choppington and Bedlington, connecting with the re-opened line to Ashington, and investigating a full Northumberland coast service with regular local trains running from Newcastle to Berwick, with Belford and Beal re-opened, a service which SENRUG says could be delivered in conjunction with Transport Scotland, which is investigating a similar service north of the border.

Mr Fancett added: “This is a once in a decade opportunity to secure improvements to our woefully neglected local rail service. Once the franchise specification is set, there will be very little chance of getting anything else done.

“But the consultation covers a wide geographical area, and we can expect the DfT to be receiving competing demands from a number of other sources.

“That’s why SENRUG has been urging the county council, town and parish councils and any other stakeholder group that support its proposals to submit their own response as well before the consultation closed.”

Anyone who wants to support the campaign can visit www.senrug.co.uk for more details.