Report claims North East's rail is hitting the buffers

Rail service in the North East are among the worst in the country, with sparse networks making travel inaccessible to many people, according to new figures

Rail passengers at Newcastle Central Station
Rail passengers at Newcastle Central Station

Rail service in the North East are among the worst in the country, with sparse networks making travel inaccessible to many people, according to new figures.

The research, carried out by advisory service firm Credo, blames lack of investment and little local authority control for the bad findings.

It says the North East “performed weakly” compared to London and the West Midlands and “lagged behind” the rest of the country.

Ian Mearns, MP for Gateshead, said he was unsurprised at the findings and blamed it on lack of money spent in the region.

He said: “I would have been flabbergasted if there were any other results.

“There is a huge disparity between public investment in infrastructure in London and the South East compared to the North East.”

A report from the Institute for Public Policy Research said 2011 spending in the capital is more than £2,500 per population, whereas in the North East spending was just £5 per head.

Mr Mearns said: “This needs to be resolved not just by this government but by the next government as well.”

Andrew Allen, from Campaign for Better Transport, said the Credo research charts how different regions in the UK perform, the number of passengers using rail transport and how happy they are.

The North East scored just 9% in growth and usage compared to London’s 73%.

Mr Allen said: “The expanse of the rail networks in the North East is quite small - there are lots of people who can’t access a station.”

He also said that areas such as Scotland and Wales, where control was devolved to local authorities, tended to have a better system and a more successful performance.

He added: “Local authorities in the North East have written to Secretary of State Patrick McLoughlin, asking for more control - that is the way you begin to improve services.”

The research exposed the lack of access in some parts of the North East and with some people miles from a train station, it is easier to drive or rely on Metro services.

Tony Walker from Rail Future, which campaigns for better rail services for passengers and freight, said the overground rail service carries just 15 million users a year, compared to the Metro’s 40 million passengers.

He said: “The Metro is the biggest player in the region, and it does use national lines.”

He blamed the North East’s bad result in lack of investment, with the region falling far behind the South.

“Some of the trains we have here are 30 years old and particularly slow – the South East wouldn’t tolerate that,” he added.

Mr Walker said Washington, with a population of about 55,000, has no rail links to Newcastle.

Consett, with a population of about 27,000 is isolated from national rail networks.

Trains between Newcastle and Middlesbrough run just once an hour, whereas in Scotland, which performed well in the research, trains run between Edinburgh and Glasgow up to every 15 minutes.

One way of reversing the trend, he claims, would be for the North East to have greater control over its rail services.

This franchise plan was put back however, and a partnership deal with central government is to be introduced in February 2016.

Credo is an advisory services firm, which aims to help organisations make and implement better strategic decisions.

Campaign for Better Transport is a charity focused on sustainable transport.


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