Berwick leaders express dismay at proposed cuts in train services

Plans for a major reduction in rail services in Berwick have been heavily criticised by local leaders.

Thursday, 24th June 2021, 8:57 am
Updated Thursday, 24th June 2021, 4:24 pm
Berwick railway station.
Berwick railway station.

LNER’s proposed new timetable from May 2022, developed by Network Rail with all train and freight operators on the East Coast Main Line, would see the number of trains calling at Berwick reduced by around 72 per week.

LNER says the proposal has involved balancing long-distance, high-speed, regional and commuter/local services alongside the needs of the rail freight sector and, as a result, does involve a series of trade-offs.

A spokesperson said: "Under the proposed new May 2022 timetable, we will reduce our Berwick services from one train per hour to one train every other hour.

A train crossing the Royal Border Bridge at Berwick.

“Berwick will still have one LNER train every other hour which is a better service than other stations with similar passenger numbers.”

However, Berwick MP Anne-Marie Trevelyan intends to raise her concerns with Grant Shapps, Secretary of State for Transport.

She said: “Many of my constituents are as dismayed as I am with the proposed timetable changes put forward by LNER in their consultation. To reduce the number of trains stopping at Berwick and Alnmouth over a year by 3,800 would be a blow.

"The total lack of understanding of what is actually happening in Northumberland in the context of the Government’s Levelling up Agenda seems to have been totally missed by the management of LNER.

"I would encourage everyone who has concerns to complete the LNER consultation and let their views be known so that the LNER team are in no doubt how local businesses and people feel. I will be replying to the consultation myself and ensuring the Secretary of State for Transport knows my strong views on this matter.”

The proposal was also labelled ‘a disaster for Northumberland’ by Dennis Fancett, chairman of the South East Northumberland Rail Users’ Group (SENRUG) which has been campaigning for improved local services.

He said: “I personally don’t believe the saving of an extra few minutes between London and Edinburgh justifies the losses that we are going to have. Berwick and Morpeth in particular are going to suffer.”

Cllr Isabel Hunter, member for Berwick West with Ord on Northumberland County Council, added: “LNER should rethink their proposed timetable for 2022 and not reduce the number of trains stopping in Berwick, as the train service is well used by commuters, as well as people accessing hospital appointments and leisure.

"The reduction of trains stopping in Berwick goes against proposals to reduce carbon emissions. This also goes against the work to re-open small stations and platforms along the East Coast line.”

Cllr Georgina Hill, Berwick East, added: “The reduced frequency of train services to London and Edinburgh is disappointing but the biggest problem is in relation to the services between non-principal stations in the area - the services between Berwick, Dunbar, Alnmouth and Morpeth are frankly shocking.

A ray of better news is the prospect of later evening trains which Cllr Hill said represented ‘real progress’.

“For years the last train back from Edinburgh, during the week, was 9pm,” she explained. “Therefore, the 10pm service and that extra hour does make a big difference but really there should be an 11pm option, as there is now from Newcastle. However, the Saturday service remains a big issue.”

Cllr Glen Sanderson, leader of Northumberland County Council, said: "I am really horrified with the proposals around the East Coast Main Line which will see services taken away from Berwick and Morpeth in particular.

"It is absolutely vital that we do all we can to keep these stations with the right amount of services so people will use them. That will take cars off the road and will be much better environmentally.

"It is the wrong thing to do at the wrong time when we are trying to get more people onto public transport. I will be making my position very clear to LNER."

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