Build Back Better – or Worse?

As life gradually returns to normal after lockdown, the mantra that our railways will be “built back better” has somehow got a little lost in its journey from Westminster to South East Northumberland. With regard to Newcastle – Cramlington – Morpeth, whilst SENRUG is delighted that, following our furious lobbying, the through service to MetroCentre – threatened with being axed – will continue, and indeed extend on to and from Carlisle as per the pre Covid timetable, there is an unacceptable break in the hourly service pattern in the late afternoon, with no 15:59 Newcastle to Morpeth or return 16:55 Morpeth to Newcastle. Northern have been asked to confirm this is not just a drafting error but have so far failed to reply, leaving us to conclude Cramlington passengers will indeed have a 2-hour wait for a train at this time. This will be another hammer blow for any commuter wishing to avoid the busy 16:48 return train home.

There is no sign of the return of the promised hourly TPE service at Morpeth (giving through connections to Edinburgh, Leeds, Manchester and Liverpool), instead we are left with just 2 TPE services each way per day at Morpeth. And LNER seem determined to introduce compulsory seat reservations making it difficult for those who use their services for commuting to and from Morpeth, and vulnerable passengers who don’t have smartphones or can’t use the LNER app. Morpeth of course does not have LNER staff to hand to assist passengers needing to make last minute seat reservations, for instance if the previous train was cancelled. This all feels like a concerted effort by the rail industry and their guiding masters at the DfT to push people back into their cars.

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