Franchise fears for rail services

Rail users and a union boss have raised concerns about the future of services in Northumberland as the bidding process for the East Coast Mainline progresses.

But the service specification for the franchise, which is to be re-privatised from March 2015, seems to indicate that Alnmouth would have similar trains running as now.

However, campaign group SENRUG (South East Northumberland Rail Users Group) is concerned that vital services currently provided at Morpeth are not protected.

Three companies are currently bidding for the franchise, but can withdraw any service that is not ‘franchise protected’ – including Morpeth.

And rail union RMT warned that the new franchise agreement does not have enough guarantees written into it for services from Morpeth, Alnmouth and Berwick and that early-morning connections to Newcastle and London could go.

For Alnmouth, the specification calls for the first train down to London King’s Cross to arrive at 10.05am and the last train back to leave the capital no earlier than 7.30pm, similar to the current service.

Currently, commuters can change at Newcastle and get to London for 9.4oam and it is unclear whether this would still be included under a new operator.

Southbound, there would be a minimum of eight services from Alnmouth to King’s Cross each weekday, including two between 7am and noon and four from noon to 9pm.

Going the other way, the first train from London would have to get into Alnmouth by 11.10am and the last train back could leave no earlier than 6.30pm.

A minimum of five services from King’s Cross would have to call at Alnmouth each weekday, four of them leaving London between 7am and 4pm.

On the weekends, there would have to be at least six services each day connecting Alnmouth with King’s Cross.

The minimum number of services which have to call at Morpeth is fewer than Alnmouth during the week and at weekends.