Calls made for better rail service

The significant social and economic benefits of an improved local rail service between Newcastle and Edinburgh have been outlined.

Friday, 19th January 2018, 8:15 am
SENRUG chairman Dennis Fancett at Morpeth Railway Station.

Campaigners from both sides of the border pressed the case for better connectivity between communities at an event in Berwick town hall on Tuesday night.

The meeting was organised by the recently-formed Berwick Regeneration Commission.

Coun Georgina Hill, member for Berwick East on Northumberland County Council, said: “It’s difficult to overstate the benefit for Berwick if there was greater connectivity.

“We are uniquely placed between Edinburgh and Newcastle and an improved local rail service would deliver significant benefits to the economy, particularly tourism.”

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She called for later trains to be introduced from Edinburgh to Berwick. The last train on a Saturday is at 8pm. She also called for a better service between Berwick and Morpeth, where there is currently an eight-hour gap between services.

South East Northumberland Rail Users’ Group (SENRUG) is also campaigning for rural stations to be reopened.

Chairman Dennis Fancett said: “We want local trains stopping at local stations.

“It’s very difficult to travel between parts of Northumberland at the moment.

“Long-distance train operators will only stop at one or two places because they are trying to get to Edinburgh or London as quickly as possible.

“We need a local service and, on the English side, that means extending the Newcastle to Morpeth service on to Berwick at least hourly during the day.

“We want it to stop at all the stations along the route and then we want new stations opened, particularly Belford and Beal but also possibly Warkworth to serve the Amble area.

“It would enable rail access into Berwick from elsewhere in Northumberland and a parallel service from Edinburgh to Berwick would bring people into the town from the Scottish Borders. We believe there could be a significant economic boost for Berwick.

“The line also passes through one of the most beautiful places in the country but there are no local trains for tourists to access.”

Rail Action Group East of Scotland (RAGES) remain confident that Reston and East Linton stations will be reopened - enabling an Edinburgh to Berwick local service - but they are still pressing for timescales.

Tom Thorburn, RAGES chairman, said: “That local service would provide the late night trains that Berwick wants. When the Edinburgh Festival is on and the city is jam-packed, Berwick hoteliers could jump on that and people could stay in the town.”

Other panellists were RAGES vice chairman Barrie Forrest, Edward Dunn of Network Rail, Coun Richard Wearmouth of Northumberland County Council and Coun Mark Rowley of Scottish Borders Council.