MP calls for rethink on train service shake-up

SKILL FORCE .... front  young Josh Raine with  Kevan Jones MP and class pupils at South Shields Community School

SKILL FORCE .... front young Josh Raine with Kevan Jones MP and class pupils at South Shields Community School

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AN MP is demanding an urgent rethink on rail services after trains were cut.

The new East Coast Main Line timetable sees the number of northbound CrossCountry services to Chester-le-Street station reduced from 14 trains a day to 11, with only four services on Sundays.

The first northbound Sunday train will now arrive at 2.09pm, which opponents say will hit families planning a day out and shoppers travelling to Newcastle.

North Durham MP Kevan Jones said: “I am not asking for more trains to run on the East Coast Main Line, but I just wish more of the existing services stopped at this large market town.

“We know that the new service stops at 24 past the even hour going south, and 55 past the odd hour going north.

“Why can’t they all stop to give an hourly service through the day?

“There are also large gaps in the evening and a key commuter service around 8.30am has been withdrawn, affecting commuters into the town from Newcastle as well as those going further south from the town.”

The London-based Railway Consultancy has produced a report that highlights the value of stopping more trains at Chester-le-Street, rather than cutting services even further.

Mr Jones has vowed to press the Department for Transport to specify an hourly service in the franchise renewal process, if TransPennine is not willing to stop more trains voluntarily when the next timetable period starts in December.

Martin Murphy, from transport campaign group the North East Combined Transport Activists Roundtable, backed the MP’s call.

“Isn’t it often the way that when you are offered improvements to the service, you end up fighting to retain the services you have already got?”

Independent station operator Chester-le-Track has commissioned a report into the changes.

Stationmaster Alex Nelson said the reduction was a result of changes to the timetable, which had seen TransPennine Express take over responsibility for most of the services stopping at Chester-le-Street from CrossCountry.

First TransPennine Express spokesman David Mallender said: “We are aware of the aspirations of Mr Jones for more services for Chester-le-Street and will be studying the report’s findings closely.

“In the meantime, we have almost doubled the number of First TransPennine Express services that call at the station from 58 to 110 each week and believe we have struck the right balance between providing a good level of service for the town while at the same time not extending journey times for those making longer distance journeys.”

@Sunechobiz