Government under fire from transport campaigners over rail investment

The government has come under fire for failing to accept the case for investment in the region's rail network

Dennis Fancett chairperson of SENRUG
Dennis Fancett chairperson of SENRUG

The Government has come under fire from transport campaigners for failing to accept the case for investment in the North East’s rail services.

Ministers were accused of ‘erecting barriers’ to growing the region’s network and of ‘minimalist plans’ for services over the next ten years by the group Campaign for Better Transport in their new report.

There were also calls from SENRUG, a Northumberland rail user group, for bold improvements to local rail services which it described as being “woefully neglected”.

Transport officials however insisted they have “big ambitions” for rail in the North as part of an investment of more than £1 billion in transport improvements across the region over the next five years, and highlighted Chancellor George Osborne’s vision for a high speed network.

Campaign for Better Transport’s report ‘North of England Rail Services: Busting the Myths’ accuses ministers of failing to accept or understand the case for transformational investment in the north of England’s rail services.

Co-author of the report, Andrew Allen, said: “Government lacks any coherent plan to transform the north of England’s railways.

“While the cities in ‘One North’ (a proposal for intergrated transport produced by cities in the North) propose a transformed and growing railway, the Department for Transport (DfT) are forcing fares up, and the new rail franchises could even see some services being cut.

“Government needs to act now and set out its vision for the new trains, decent stations and better services which towns and cities across the North need.”

Meanwhile, SENRUG - the South East Northumberland Rail User Group - has called for bold improvements to local services in its response to the DfT’s current consultation on the new Northern and TransPennine Express franchises.

It is calling for the full re-opening of the Ashington Blyth and Tyne line, a project the group has been campaigning for many years, and which is now being progressed by Northumberland County Council.

SENRUG is also requesting increased services to Cramlington and Morpeth, by extending the TransPennine Expresses services on from Newcastle.

It is furthermore calling for the existing MetroCentre to Morpeth services to be extended on to Pegswood and Widdrington, for some Morpeth trains to go onto Choppington and Bedlington connecting with the re-opened line to Ashington, and a full Northumberland Coast service with regular trains running from Newcastle to Berwick, with Belford and Beal re-opened.

Chair Dennis Fancett said: “This is a once in a decade opportunity to secure improvements to our woefully neglected local rail service.”

A DfT spokesperson said: “We have big ambitions for rail in the north that will transform services for passengers.

“Over the next five years, we are investing more than £1 billion in major transport improvements across the region and in June the chancellor set out his vision for a high speed network that will link some of the UK’s biggest cities.

“As part of our plans, we have asked passengers, local people and groups such as SENRUG what they would like to see from the new Northern and Transpennine Express franchises in the consultation closing today.

“This will allow us to plan the best way forward for the franchises, so we can deliver a world-class network that drives long-term economic growth across the region.

“No decisions will be made without taking into account the views of local people.”

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