A TRAIN service between Sunderland and London should not be at the expense of others using the already busy line, a transport spokesman has said.
The proposal for a new link between the city and the capital is one of the points that whoever is awarded the contract to run the East Coast mainline must address.
The contract for the mainline was put out to tender last week.
If the suggestion is implemented, it would use the busy line shared with Metro, Northern Rail and freight services –and Tory councillor Peter Wood is urging caution.
Coun Wood said: “Whilst any improvement in Sunderland’s rail services is to be welcomed, it should not be at the expense of the increasingly popular Grand Central services via Hartlepool and Teesside to London, of which there are currently five each way per day.
“The idea of through services via Newcastle is not new. Some years ago there were trans-Pennine trains between Sunderland and Liverpool which ran via Newcastle.
“The Sunderland to Newcastle railway line is already very busy. Any such services would, of course, have to fit in with services which already use this line.”
The Government is describing the invitation to tender for the East Coast franchise as “a milestone” in the transformation of “one of the UK’s most iconic rail routes”.
Bidders will be asked to outline how they would build on the multibillion-pound investment planned for the East Coast mainline and what improvements they would deliver in terms of services to passengers, which will include the roll-out on new express inter-city trains.
Rail Minister Stephen Hammond said: “The time is now right for us to find a long-term partner for the East Coast franchise, who can use their private sector expertise and knowledge to build on the significant investment planned for the route. I want to see innovative bids that provide value for money for taxpayers and deliver improved services for passengers and local businesses.”
The successful bidder will be announced in November.