- SENRUG calls for an increase in the number of mainline intercity services that call at morpeth train station.
- SENRUG wants to see the existing local services between Morpeth and Newcastle retimed to provide services departing at the same minutes past each hour throughout the day.
- SENRUG would like to see better use made of existing stations such as Pegswood and Manors and the re-opening of former stations like stannington.
- SENRUG believes there is a strong case for extending the hourly local service further north to Berwick.
- Re-open Ashington Blyth & Tyne line to provide direct rail service from Ashington & Bedlington (and eventually from Newsham for Blyth) to Newcastle Central Station.
IMPROVING LOCAL RAIL SERVICES
The DfT are currently consulting on the franchise specification for local rail links in this area up to 2026. This is a once in a decade opportunity to influence the service we get. Respond to the consultation before 17th August 2014.
DELIVERING A BETTER RAILWAY
Requirements for the local rail service in South East Northumberland from 2016
The Department for Transport is now consulting on the specifications for the new Northern and TransPennine Express rail franchises, which will start from February 2016. The new franchises will run for 8-10 and 7-9 years respectively.
The franchise specifications include the minimum train service and facilities the new train operator must legally provide. It is therefore vitally important that requirements for better rail services in South East Northumberland are included in the DfT specifications. The consultation represents a once in a decade opportunity to win a better rail service for this area.
These franchises cover a significant geographical area and the DfT is likely to receive conflicting and competing demands from a number of sources. SENRUG is urging as many statutory and stakeholder groups and other interested parties to respond to the consultation. SENRUG’s own proposals are shown in this leaflet, and respondees are welcome to copy this text or attach this leaflet to their response.
The DfT consultation document is at www.gov.uk/government/consultations/future-of-northern-and-transpennine-express-rail-franchises and responses can be sent to NorthernTPEconsultation2014@dft.gsi.gov.uk or via post to the address on the website above and must be received by 17th August 2014.
- Re-introduction of Passenger Services on Ashington Blyth & Tyne Line, providing a service from Woodhorn (Park & Ride) via Ashington, Bedlington, Bebside, Newsham for Blyth, Seaton Delaval, Seghill, Northumberland Park (Metro Connection) to Manors and Newcastle
- Service frequency of Newcastle – Cramlington – Morpeth service increased to half hourly, plus an evening and Sunday service .
- Alternate Northern Rail services to Morpeth extended to Pegswood and Widdrington (giving a 2 hourly service throughout the day to these stations, improving the choice for commuters and meeting the public transport demands for the Blue Sky Forest Leisure and Housing development at Widdrington)
- Alternate Northern Rail services to Morpeth extended to Choppington and Bedlington (giving a 2 hourly service to a new station at Choppington and connecting to the re-opened Ashington Blyth & Tyne line service at Bedlington)
- Commitment to carry out full feasibility and costing study on a Northumberland Coast service, extending the 2 hourly service to Widdrington on to Acklington, Alnmouth for Alnwick, Chathill, re-opened stations at Belford and Beal then Berwick. (This would open up the north of the county for tourism and leisure, providing access from the densely populated south and could be achieved by working with Transport Scotland who are investigating a local service from Edinburgh to Berwick with some local stations re-opened.)
- All stations should have level access to all platforms, waiting shelters on all platforms and some means of advising passengers of live train running information, such as Customer Information Screens. This would require the franchise operator to provide level access at Manors and CIS Screens (or alternative solution) at Manors, Cramlington, Pegswood, Widdrington. Acklington & Chathill.)
Cramlington Station – No evening or Sunday service.
No Customer Information System as yet.
- Stations which serve inter-city trains should also have a staffed ticket office, customer toilet and waiting room all of which should be open for 8 hours a day Mondays to Saturdays. (This would require the franchise holder to retain and extend the opening hours for Morpeth’s Ticket Office)
- Replacement of the Pacers with quieter, more comfortable and disabled friendly trains during the life of the franchise period.
How Can I Support These Objectives?
The more people we speak for, the louder our voice is heard. Our Membership Rates are just £5 per year (£10 for corporate or statutory bodies or £2.50 for concessions).
Download a Membership Application Form from senrug.co.uk/join or send a cheque (payable to SENRUG) clearly stating your name, full address, email address and post to SENRUG Membership Secretary, PO Box 75, Morpeth, NE61 2WG.
Lobby Your Elected Representatives
Ask your Town or Parish Councillor, County Councillor and MP for their support. They may already be on board, but they need to know who many of their constituents support them. We are particularly asking the County Council and Town & Parish Councils to respond to the consultation directly.
Get Other Groups To Respond
If you own, represent, run or are a member of a business, trade union or other organisation that would benefit from an improved rail service, please ensure that group also responds to the consultation.
When you meet people of influence, ask them why rail services in Northumberland are so poor compared to the rest of the country. What other stations for towns of Cramlington’s or Morpeth’s size would not have an evening or Sunday local rail service?
ALARM AS NEW EAST COAST FRANCHISE FAILS TO PROTECT VITAL MORPETH SERVICES
SENRUG, the group that campaigns for better rail services in South East Northumberland, is expressing its concern that the specification for the new East Coast Main Line rail service, recently published by the Department for Transport, does not protect vital services at Morpeth.
The franchise sets out the minimum service levels the new operator, who will take over running the line from March 2015, will need to provide. Three companies are currently bidding for the contract. Whilst whoever wins can provide additional services over and above the franchise specification if they wish, they can withdraw any service that is not “franchise protected”.
SENRUG Chair Dennis Fancett said the franchise specification, now available on the government website, is a long and complex document. “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 09:40 is no longer a specified requirement. The earliest requirement for arrival in London from Morpeth reverts to 10:05, making that 10:00 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. And the Flying Scotsman itself will only be required to arrive by 09:50 (current arrival time 09:40)”.
Additionally, the later northbound Friday only service from London at 19:30 is not a specified requirement. The new operator will only be required to offer services up to 18:30, the same as the Monday to Thursday requirement. And from May 2020, the new operator will not be required to offer an evening departure from London to Morpeth on Mondays to Fridays at all!
On Saturdays, the new operator will only be required to offer 1 direct service from London to Morpeth; currently 2 are provided (departing London 16:30 and 18:00).
On Sundays, the new operator will only be required to offer 1 southbound service at Morpeth, and that will not need to be a direct train to London. Currently, there are 2 services, one of which is a London train. They will also only need to provide 4 northbound services at Morpeth; currently there are 5. As Morpeth has no local services on Sundays, the number of inter-city services calling at Morpeth is crucially important.
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 10 o’clock meeting, and the choice of two evening trains back, were only introduced in 2011 following an intense campaign from SENRUG and other groups. 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” said Dennis.
“When it comes to the new High Speed Line, the DfT is very quick to point out that better, faster rail connections with London will boost economic growth in an area” said Dennis. “Yet for South East Northumberland, more in need of an economic stimulus than possibly any other region in England, and certainly not yet seeing any signs of the recovery that may be evident elsewhere, either the DfT does not accept the link between improved rail connections and regional growth, or it is content to let this region flounder by permitting the new operator to cut vital connections to and from London much needed by our business community” he added.
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. They have yet to receive a reply.