'Horrendous Christmas' prompts call for more transport investment in North East

North East rail bosses have called for more transport investment in the region following an ‘horrendous Christmas’ for travellers and commuters.

By James Harrison
Thursday, 23rd January 2020, 11:17 am

Passengers were hit by travel chaos on some of December’s busiest days, with a combination of timetable changes and other disruptions leading to a host of delays and cancellations.

But despite the problems, regional leaders say there is still no proper plan to overhaul and reform the system to make it fit for purpose.

“It has been a horrendous Christmas period, with some of the worst train services being run,” said Coun Carl Marshall, Durham County Council’s cabinet member for economic regeneration.

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“TransPennine Express ripped up nearly half their services, leaving people not able to make it for work or make it home for Christmas and Northern Rail wasn’t much better.

“Services in and out of the North East were some of the worst affected and no one had any plan for how to get the network back to credibility for passengers, which is extremely worrying.”

Coun Marshall was speaking at a meeting of the North East Joint Transport Committee (JTC).

In the new year, transport minister Grant Shapps said services provided by Northern Rail and TransPennine Express had not been ‘anywhere near acceptable’.

Travel disruption for passengers on Northern Rail in particular was so bad over Christmas he even raised the prospect of stripping the franchise of its contract to run trains.

Research released last year found the East Coast Mainline, the primary rail route in and out of the North East, was ‘very vulnerable to disruption’ and ‘in need of urgent investment’.

“I have concerns,” said Martin Gannon, leader of Gateshead Council and chairman of the JTC, “the recent past has seen substantial investment in the South East and I’m concerned about the commitment to the north.

“I accept decisions have not been made yet, but there is a case to be made to rectify the enormous imbalance in transport investment.

“We need that investment in the North East to unlock our economic potential.”