RAIL campaigners in Northumberland have praised a train operator for responding to passenger demand in their new timetables.
The new East Coast timetable, which was announced on Monday, will operate from May 22 and is the result of a consultation by East Coast called Eureka which started in February last year.
There will be five more weekday services between Alnmouth and London, doubling the existing number of southbound services to eight.
And a weekday morning service will get passengers from Alnmouth, Berwick and Morpeth to London for 9.40am by connecting to the new Flying Scotsman train at Newcastle. Without changing the service will get to London by 10.06am.
Murray Davies, chairman of the Alnmouth Rail Users Group (ARUG), said: “It looks like all of our previous concerns have been acted upon.
“The key thing is that this is only half of the picture. This is only East Coast. We need to see what Cross Country are doing. It is only at that point we can put both bits together and assess the whole service.”
Sir Alan Beith MP has campaigned to ensure an early morning fast service to London, as well as retention of vital commuter services and a later train back to Alnmouth, Morpeth and Berwick from London every weekday.
He said: ““Rail users have been telling me how much they rely on the rail services we have from Alnmouth and as soon as the Eureka review was announced I knew we had to put some effort into getting the services needed into the timetable.
“I had a number of meetings and conversations with Elaine Holt, the chief executive of East Coast, and she listened very carefully to the issues I raised and to the statistics I showed her following my rail users’ survey.
“I am delighted that there are additional early morning services provided by East Coast and it will now be possible to get the train from Alnmouth at 6.19am, change at Newcastle and arrive into Kings Cross at 9.40am – an hour earlier than using the present service. I have spoken to many people whose business takes them to London for the day and I know that they will appreciate the introduction of this service.
“We are still waiting to see how the Cross Country services will fit into the timetable and I will continue to keep a very close eye on the situation.
“I’m very grateful to all those people who took the time to contact me or take my rail users’ survey last year and look forward to continuing to work with travellers and the Alnmouth Rail Users Group in the future.”
East Coast managing director Karen Boswell said: “The new non-stop Flying Scotsman service from Newcastle to London on weekday mornings, which connects with Northumberland stations, will also help us to continue to meet our customers’ needs and offer a very attractive alternative to flying.”
The new timetable also includes a later service back from London’s Kings Cross.
At present travellers wanting a direct service back to Alnmouth from the capital need to catch the 5.30pm service but from May the 6.30pm train from Kings Cross will call at Morpeth and Alnmouth.
There will also be a direct service from London at 7.30pm on Fridays.