North East council leaders to unite on region's rail plans

Lobbying efforts for Northern Rail and East Coast services will take place this week in Newcastle

A Northern Rail train
A Northern Rail train

Transport chiefs from across the North East will meet this week as the region prepares to fight for influence on local and national rail services.

Their lobbying efforts come as the Government prepares to renew the Northern rail commuter franchises, but with less public cash available to help improve services.

At the same time, efforts aimed at securing a say over High Speed services will be bolstered after the chancellor George Osborne announced he wanted to bring forward plans for a third route from Leeds to Manchester.

Seven council leaders making up the region’s combined authority will meet this week to set out how they will try to ensure the North East is not sidelined during the various transport talks.

Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne
Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne
 

Councils from across the three Northern regions have teamed up to have a bigger say on the Northern and trans-pennine franchises, rasing concerns that the likes of Manchester and Leeds will soak dominate investment talks.

North East council leaders will be told that “reductions to the subsidies available for these services could present difficult issues for the region, and it will be important to secure a strong level of influence within these arrangements to mitigate these risks as far as possible.”

Alongside the commuter service development is also a continued need to ensure East Coast services work for the region, councils will be told. As such, the combined authority is likely to agree plans to approach potential rail operators bidding for the service, such as Virgin Trains, to go over the region’s needs.

How a train on HS2 could look as it speeds between London and Birmingham
How a train on HS2 could look as it speeds between London and Birmingham
 

On high speed rail the combined authority will need to convince Whitehall of the need for capacity upgrades on the East Coast past York. Concerns are growing that without extra line being opened up to take on some freight services from Northallerton to Newcastle the North East will actually lose out under High Speed rail.

Provisional network rail documents suggest the region will eventually have to accept high speed trains stopping at Newcastle, with services further north to Scotland replaced by commuter trains.

Officers preparing a report for council leaders have said: “A key concern for the Combined Authority area is to ensure there is sufficient capacity on the two-track section of the East Coast Main Line between Northallerton and Newcastle, without which there could be insufficient capacity for HS2 trains north of York.”

The meeting at Newcastle Civic Centre on Tuesday will bring together the seven council leaders from Northumberland, Tyne and Wear and Durham.

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