WELCOMED PLANS: New rail services in Northumberland
North East leaders have welcomed plans to add a series of new rail services to timetables in Northumberland and improve links to Scotland.
Changes set to be introduced in December are expected to add five trains a day to the route between Newcastle and Edinburgh in both directions.
Crucially, the additional stops proposed by TransPennine Express will include Berwick and Morpeth, which until recently campaigners had feared were in line to see a cut in options for passengers.
Glen Sanderson, leader of Northumberland County Council, said he was ‘delighted’ by the latest development.
He added: “[The county council] has been campaigning for better rail services for communities located along the East Coast Main Line, and our work has yielded results.
“This new service will greatly improve peoples’ ability to use the train to get to work, education and leisure opportunities.
“Taken together with the project we are leading to bring rail services back to the Northumberland Line, rail connectivity in Northumberland will be transformed.”
Under the proposals put forward bt TransPennine Express, when rail timetables are updated in December, five new weekday services will be added between Edinburgh and Newcastle, also calling at Morpeth, Alnmouth and Berwick, as well as Reston and Dunbar, north of the Scottish border.
Further stops at Cramlington and Widdrington are also expected to be added to schedules, although this is subject to ‘industry procedures’ which may not be completed in time for the new service starting later this year.
Rail bosses have also raised the prospect of two further trains being added to timetables between Edinburgh and Berwick by May 2022.
Georgina Hill, a county councillor for the town, said: “It will make it easier for people to travel for study or training and it’s the start of what campaigners have been asking for.
“The bigger issue is for later trains, about more services and better connectivity.”
The proposed timetable additions would see the northbound route between Newcastle and Edinburgh start at about 7am, with the last service departing at 9.01pm.
In the opposite direction, the first of five trains would leave the Scottish capital at 5.26am, while the last of the day would depart at 7.12pm.
Martin Gannon, chair of the North East Joint Transport Committee and leader of Gateshead Council, said: “This is excellent news and shows how our region can improve transport links when we work together.
“Not only have we seen off the disastrous plans to decimate our rail service on the East Coast Main Line – for now at least – but it is now confirmed that we are going to see an exciting new service introduced that provides even better links between Northumberland, Newcastle and Scotland.
“We will continue to make the case for the government to invest in the East Coast Main Line in our region so that there is enough capacity for all of the services that need to use it, now and in the future, providing further appealing, sustainable transport options for people in the North East.”
Words: James Harrison, Local Democracy Reporter
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