'Reprehensible' – Fury at revival of draft plan to cut rail services at Morpeth and other stations

A draft new train timetable that could see services slashed at smaller railway stations across the North East – including at Morpeth – has been described as “reprehensible” at a meeting.
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A Morpeth councillor has also raised his concerns about the rail industry plans, which will be introduced in December 2024 if confirmed.

Between Morpeth and London, there would be two less weekday departures and one less weekday departure between Morpeth and Edinburgh.

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A previous shake-up of the East Coast Main Line timetable was shelved in 2021, amid complaints that it would have devastating consequences for passengers who rely on smaller stations in the region, also including Berwick.

Morpeth Railway Station.Morpeth Railway Station.
Morpeth Railway Station.

But the idea of sacrificing some services in order to add a third train per hour between London and Newcastle has now been revived.

Northumberland County Council criticised the draft plans last week and it has pledged to continue to campaign hard for improved rail services for communities located along the East Coast Main Line and beyond.

Adding his comments this week is Morpeth Stobhill county councillor John Beynon, who said: “It would be such a shame if the cuts are implemented because Morpeth Railway Station is very well used and such a vital link for the public and businesses in Morpeth and surrounding areas.

“There should be more trains stopping at Morpeth, not less.

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“I can’t understand the logic of cutting services just to save a few minutes on the overall journey.”

While the full details of the new timetable have not yet been made public, council chiefs were told that its effects on the North East will be broadly similar to the 2021 proposal.

The original plans would have resulted in a reduction in the number of services stopping at Durham and Darlington, as well as Berwick and Morpeth.

A furious Glen Sanderson, county council leader, called the plans “ridiculous”, “stupid”, and “reprehensible”.

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He told a North East Joint Transport Committee (JTC) meeting: “I just cannot believe that people in the decision-making process have ignored everything we have said. They have ignored the fact that to remove commuter trains will damage the environment and damage the whole move towards putting public transport as the logical way forward.

“It ignores the whole makeup of our region, it ignores our views, it ignores the views of the people who use those trains – and all for the sake of a couple of minutes [reduced journey time to London]. How farcical is that?”

LNER said its plans for the December 2024 changes were still yet to be confirmed, but admitted that they “may not satisfy everyone”.

A spokesperson said: “The industry is working together on proposals to deliver even more services to and from the North East that will be worth millions of pounds to the region’s economy. Our plan to increase services will add six million extra seats a year between the North East and York.

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“To enable faster trains, increase services and passenger numbers, we recognise our enhancements may not satisfy everyone, but the proposed timetable will be of benefit to the greatest number of customers across the north. LNER services currently deliver in excess of £200m in benefits for the North East each year and the proposed new timetable has potential to add further to this figure.”