Anyone who has read this blog will know that the local railways, particularly the line between Carlisle and Newcastle, is one of our key concerns. Fortunately the craziness of Torchgate is behind us, but there are promising developments with the proposal of the Transport Secretary that a local group could conceivably take over control of local Northern Rail train services.
There is no question that local people are getting increasingly disappointed by the standard of the rail service on a number of different levels: it is not just the quality of the trains, carriages, and frequency. It is also a question of service.
I have persistent complaints as to
- the frequency and number of carriages that are laid on when there are match days at St James Park or in Sunderland or Middlesborough
- yearly disasters at the County Show
I have raised the issue of a local franchise in the House of Commons by way of Questions and will be meeting with the Transport Secretary, Justine Greening, MP, later this month to go over the possibility of setting up a Northumbria Rail.
There is a precedent: Ministers have already had preliminary discussions concerning the devolving of rail rights to local groups in Cornwall and Devon, who want to set up a West Country service. Such a move in the North East would need the backing of councils and almost certainly see Metro bosses on the Tyne and Wear Integrated Transport Authority asked to take on a bigger role.
Officers there are already considering the impact of the Government’s rail decentralisation consultation, with meetings held last week to assess the cost implications.
For me the next two months are key: we have the end of the football season and then the County Show, when the world comes to Corbridge. I have written to Northern Rail urging them to ensure that a sufficiency of trains are laid on for these crucial events as all too often there is a simple lack of trains and carriages on these crucial local days. This will be their acid test.