Two very useful meetings today, firstly with Matthew Lee of East Coast Trains (the new open access operator that will commences services through Morpeth some time in 2021 – though note the brand name under which services will run has yet to be revealed) and secondly with Mike Ross of LNER. Both meetings were planned as face to face, but due to the enhanced COVID restrictions here in the North East had to be re-scheduled as virtual meetings via Zoom. Both meetings were very positive. East Coast Trains reported their plans to commence services are on track, driver and crew training is underway at Newcastle and train assembly at Hitachi’s Newton Aycliffe facility is proceeding smoothly. With LNER, we discussed issues relating to the “reserved seat only” travel policy in the event that a preceding train is late or cancelled and a connection missed and received welcome assurances. We also covered plans to ramp back up to the full timetable and the re-introduction of catering on trains. With both operators, I mentioned they might see more passengers travelling from Newcastle and Morpeth to Edinburgh Airport now a key low-cost carrier has pulled out of Newcastle – it is therefore vital to get the integrated rail ticket including the onward bus or tram to the airport working correctly.