Potential cuts to rail services prompt concern

Alnmouth Railway Station'Picture by Jane Coltman
Alnmouth Railway Station'Picture by Jane Coltman

A review of the Cross Country rail franchise has suggested that fewer trains could stop at smaller railway stations.

It is one of the options being considered to reduce the number of local stops the company makes, potentially impacting on Berwick, Alnmouth and Morpeth.

The idea has been strongly opposed by local politicians.

David Bull, chairman of the Berwick Labour Group, said: “Any review of rail services should result in improvements to Berwick, not poorer services. It is becoming clearer that the only way to get the services passengers need is to bring the railways back to public ownership. The private rail sector have failed passengers.”

The operator currently runs services from Aberdeen to Penzance.

Heather Cairns, chairman of Berwick Liberal Democrats, believes that cutting local stops would be the wrong way to tackle the problem of over-crowding on long-distance journeys and the Government should instead focus on adding extra carriages.

She said: “Passengers in north Northumberland already have to put up with disappointments like the low number of trains calling at Widdrington and Chathill and a lack of services from Edinburgh to Berwick on Saturday evenings.

“Cuts to the number of trains calling at Alnmouth and Berwick would make it even harder for residents to travel by rail in the county, especially commuters in north Northumberland who rely on Cross Country’s morning and evening services.

“I’m shocked to hear that the Government is looking into changes like this. If they want to reduce overcrowding, they should insist on additional carriages, instead of scrapping stops at smaller stations.

“If these plans were to go through, the effect on residents, commuters and the local economy would be severe.

“The Berwick Liberal Democrats will be working with the community to oppose them and I hope that the North East Combined Authority takes up this issue with the Government as soon as possible.”

Berwick MP Anne-Marie Trevelyan, who represents the Conservative Party, is also against the proposals.

She said: “Northumberland’s economy continues to grow and the train network is critical to that.

“Any proposals to reduce train connectivity from our smaller stations are wholly unacceptable, and I continue to discuss the extension of services at Chathill and Belford with the Department of Transport.

“I urge all those who use our local train stations to feed into the consultation process so that our voice is heard loud and clear with decision-makers.”

The Department for Transport’s public consultation runs until August 30. To view the consultation and to comment on it, visit www.gov.uk/government/consultations/cross-country-rail-franchise