Rail group calls for shake-up of train timetable

Rail campaigners have strongly criticised proposals that Cross Country trains should no longer call at smaller stations such as Berwick.

By The Newsroom
Friday, 24 August, 2018, 12:50
Berwick railway station

In its formal response to a Department for Transport consultation, South East Northumberland Rail Users’ Group (SENRUG) points out the idea contradicts Network Rail’s suggestion of more calls at smaller stations by long distance operators, as local services cannot cater for demand.

SENRUG says that Cross Country services at Alnmouth and Berwick should be retained at the same level with a modest increase at Morpeth, which should have a service every two hours.

However, it wants the times of the trains co-ordinated with those of government-run LNER, rather than have two trains in six minutes then nothing for three hours, as Morpeth currently experiences on Sundays.

SENRUG is also asking for the calling patterns on Cross Country and LNER trains to be co-ordinated to make it possible to travel between Northumberland and Scottish Borders stations.

Chairman Dennis Fancett pointed out that in alternate hours, three trains leave Newcastle for Edinburgh within 20 minutes of each other.

“We accept that one of these trains should travel non-stop, but we think at least one train an hour should call at each of the region’s key centres which are Morpeth, Alnmouth, Berwick and Dunbar. What’s more, we think Cramlington should be added to that list too, as it will soon be Northumberland’s largest town.”

SENRUG also points out that cutting out Northumberland stations would not necessarily speed up Cross Country trains, as they have to wait behind other trains on the line with slower acceleration.

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“The Cross Country stops at Morpeth were first introduced using the time the trains waited at signals outside Edinburgh and Newcastle stations, and did not add to the overall journey times for travelling between these cities,” added Dennis.

In fact, SENRUG claims that cutting out stops at places such as Morpeth and laying on extra local trains - even if these were available - is more likely to slow Cross Country trains down, as there would be more track congestion.

But SENRUG agrees Cross Country trains are too crowded and it is the biggest problem facing the network.

“We think the answer is longer trains, with a significant number of extra seats” said Dennis.

SENRUG also proposes a sophisticated seat reservation system so that passengers travelling on longer journeys are not frequently disturbed by those on short hops.

SENRUG urges Northumberland travellers who want to ensure their Cross Country services are retained to respond directly to the DfT’s consultation, and also to join SENRUG to help it in their campaigning efforts by going to www.senrug.co.uk.