MP takes up train fight with minister

An MP whose constituents have to fight for a space on Britain's most overcrowded train has met Transport Minister Tom Harris to demand a better service.

An MP whose constituents have to fight for a space on Britain's most overcrowded train has met Transport Minister Tom Harris to demand a better service. Kevan Jones, member for North Durham, held the meeting last week following an outcry from Chester-le-Street residents frustrated by poor rail services.

But the town's commuters are unlikely to see an improvement until after a new company is announced to run the East Coast franchise later this summer.

Mr Jones said his constituents complained that trains stopping at Chester-le-Street, especially during rush hour, are often so full that passengers waiting at the town's station - the last stop on the East Coast Main Line before Newcastle - are not allowed on board.

"This naturally causes delays and frustration for commuters. Concerns have also been raised about the reliability of services," he said. Mr Jones, accompanied by Alex Nelson, station master at Chester-le-Street, raised the problem with the minister.

He said: "I think we've made it clear to the minister how much of a problem this is for people in the Chester-le-Street area - not just occasionally, but on a daily basis."

Mr Nelson said: "It was a constructive meeting. I appreciate that not much can happen until the new franchisee is announced for the East Coast route, but as soon as that happens I hope we can look forward to a new plan for Chester-le-Street."

The meeting followed a recent survey by campaign group Transport 2000 which revealed that the 7:59am Durham to Newcastle train calling at Chester-le-Street was the most overcrowded in the country, operating at up to 88% over capacity.

The train had seating for 140 passengers but actually carried 263 on average, leaving 123 standing from Durham, and often unable to pick up any more passengers in Chester-le-Street.

Operator Transpennine Express said it had increased its capacity and started running more frequent services since the survey.

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