Delays to East Coast Mainline timetable switch spark criticism in the North East

Leading Labour figures in the North East have criticised the Government over delays to planned changes on the East Coast Mainline.

The controversial changes would have seen a third fast service run between Newcastle and London every hour. However, the plans, which were due to be rolled out this December, would have meant less services stopping in Durham and Northumberland due to a lack of capacity on the line due to tight constraints on the number of trains physically able to run on the line.

This week, rail chiefs have confirmed that the changes have been shelved due to the number of issues around the proposals. The Government has responded to criticism by arguing that rail operators are responsible for rolling out any timetable changes.

Labour’s mayor candidate Kim McGuinness said: “14 years of underinvestment in the North East rail network have now come home to roost.

“It feels like every month we see a new railway failing from this Government. We have seen High Speed Rail – a new railway line to solve our capacity issues – scrapped. We’ve seen plans to reopen the Leamside line in Durham – helping us keep services going – announced and scrapped within 24 hours.

“Now, just a month after the budget promised railway investment, we’ve been warned the proposed changes would lead to cancellations and delays. We always had concerns about the changes, they took away rather than added to the services, but now we are left with no changes at all and no increase in capacity.

“This Government has no plan for the railways, we urgently need change.”

The leader of Gateshead Council, Martin Gannon, was briefed on the timetable u-turn on Monday as a member of the Rail North Committee. The Labour councillor blamed the Government’s long-term planning for the changes.

He said: “This shows conclusively the urgent need to invest now to increase rail capacity in the North East. The country’s entire economy, and the main link between Edinburgh to London, is being constrained by the Government’s long-term planning failure.”

Responding to the comments, the Department for Transport (DfT) said it was “disappointed” the proposals had been delayed. It added that the upgrade was not related to previous investment for infrastructure on the route.

A spokeswoman for the DfT said: “The need to defer the planned upgrade is not related to funding given we have invested £4bn in infrastructure and new trains on this very route, but it is ultimately for industry to deliver timetable upgrades.

“While we’re disappointed with the need to defer the full planned upgrade, we expect all industry partners to continue working on improvements as we seek to bolster transport more widely across the region – including by reopening the Northumberland Line and redirecting HS2 funding to benefit more people in more places, more quickly.”

It was also pointed out that the DfT have provided £350,000 to Transport North East in support of “their ongoing development of regional rail schemes, with the department pledging to support TNE on the Leamside Line.

Yesterday, Network Rail said there were “too many outstanding issues” to deliver the new timetable in December as planned, but that the company was “committed” to delivering benefits to both passengers and freight travel as soon as possible.

View news Source: https://www.chroniclelive.co.uk/news/north-east-news/east-coast-mainline-timetable-changes-29005530

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