Tagged: Government consultation

North-East “being ignored” in new train plans, says MP

An MP has said the North-East has been “totally ignored once again” in a Government consultation on rail travel.

The Government is consulting on future Northern and TransPennine franchises which start in February 2016.

Plans have already been unveiled for major improvements to Manchester train stations and the possibility of electrification of the railway lines to York or Leeds has been raised.

But Andy McDonald, Labour MP for Middlesbrough, said the North-East and especially the Tees Valley is being “totally ignored.”

In a written response he pointed to an Institute of Institute of Public Policy Research report which showed that for nearly £3,000 spent per person on transport in London and the South-East just £5 is spent in the North-East.

He also said current TransPennine trains were “third rate,” any investment in the North-East was confined to the Tyne and Wear Metro and the current franchise plans were likely to lead to ticket office closures and price hikes for customers. Stopping electrification at York or Leeds would also reduce the region to being left with mere “shuttle services to the 21st Century.

He continued: “I went to one presentation about rail with the secretary of Transport about this and all I could see on the screen was an arrow pointing North-East. That was our only mention. I went beserk. There’s nothing for us, despite the fact that we’re the only region outside London actually with a positive contribution to GDP. It’s like the North doesn’t exist at all outside the M62 corridor.”

Mr McDonald said he had sympathy with The Hannah Mitchell Foundation which campaigns for the North to have a regional Government. The Foundation has appealed directly to the Labour Party to promise to make changes if elected to the franchise to include new trains which it says should be made in the north.

A Department for Transport spokesman said major investment was planned for Northern railways, but also he conceded a ‘Northern hub’ would be centred on Manchester. He said: “As part of our plans, we have asked passengers what they would like to see from these new franchises. This will allow us to plan the best way forward so we can deliver a world-class network that drives long-term economic growth across the region.”

Companies will be chosen to run the new rail franchises in the coming year.

Source – Northern Echo,  18 Aug 2014

Rail campaigners call for an end to outdated Northern Rail trains

Rail campaigners have called on the Government to give Northern train services a once in a decade chance of investment.

Transport groups have said it is time services such as Northern Rail benefited from the same approach which has handed cash to rail in London and the south east in recent decades.

The Campaign for Better Transport has warned that a Government consultation on the future of Northern Rail and Trans Pennine Express looks set to do little to improve east-west links to and from the North East.

They say the plans as they stand give “only a vague indications of when the outdated 30-year old train diesel Pacer train will finally be replaced,” raising the possibility rail operators will not be forced to make much needed improvements.

In its consultation document on the new franchise the Government makes clear that it will accept limited rolling stick improvements if the cost would mean money diverted from other services.

The Department for Transport document says: “We firmly believe the rolling stock on Northern services needs to be improved so that passengers recognise a step change. But the more expensive the trains (and brand-new trains are likely to be the most expensive option of all), the harder it will be to justify current service levels where demand is low, and to afford to improve services where demand is increasing.”

The Department for Transport also makes clear that new operators would be allowed to cut back on off peak services, including reducing the number of trains calling at less popular stations.

There is some good news for Northumberland, with the Ashington, Blyth and Tyne line looking set for a return thanks to Northumberland County Council cash.

But while Ashington-Blyth and Tyne is mentioned, schemes like the Leamside reopening though the south of the region are not and potential operators wouldn’t need to consider them in their bids.

Also causing concern is a clear expectation that the northern services will not attract significant investment.

Campaigners say that the consultation is missing an sign that a new operator will be forced to invest in trains, track and stations. “This is a counterpoint to the investment-heavy approach to growing the railways used in the South East,” the campaign group said.

Stephen Joseph, chief executive at the Campaign for Better Transport, said: “The North East’s railways are at a junction. The Government is talking about trade-offs with the winners potentially getting newer trains and better stations while the losers could end up with higher fares and reduced services. Getting real investment into rail is essential to the region’s economy and we’ll be working with others to campaign for railways in the north to get the kind of support other parts of the country have seen.”

The Government consultation runs until August 18.

Source –  Newcastle Journal,  23 June 2014