Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Trains, stations, floods, roads and so much more on a packed transport agenda this week

The Intentions of Northern Rail, the changes when the Pacers are replaced on the Tyne Valley Line, the future prospects for Gilsland Station, safety improvements to the A69 at Henshaw, roads damaged by floods, culverts that damage houses, potholes, and a policy on ditch clearing and drain maintenance are just some of the issues that are occupying me this week. After a meeting in London with Northern Rail chief executive today I have a much better understanding of the way ahead for the Tyne Valley line, but I am on the train north now with 8 days of campaigning, surgeries and transport rated issues ahead. 
There is no doubt that Transport is occupying a major part of the next 48 hours as I have had a series of meetings in London, and across the county in the next two days. 

On Northern Rail today I met Alex Hynes, and discussed at length the Pacer replacement plans. I am happy to discuss in more detail with the Tyne Valley Rail Users Group but the short point is that he could not have been more adamant that we will be getting a dramatically improved quality of carriage in which to travel, including everything from wifi to disabled facilities, plus faster more comfortable trains. Some will say, and have said to me, that what the customer is getting is a refurbished train carriage, albeit one refurbished to a level that is effectively indistinguishable from new. This is true; some would argue that only brand new will do, but I would prefer to focus on the quality of the present, not how it is wrapped. The key thing I am absolutely 110% sure of is this: I am confident that local customers will see a dramatic difference, and the degree to which the DFT / government have helped made this replacement happen is to their credit. 

On Gilsland Station we now have the feasibility study from Network Rail, which I am going through with Northumberland County Council, COGS, network rail, northern rail reps, and key stakeholders in Morpeth tomorrow afternoon. The good news is that we have the report and can make some progress. The bad news is network rail's preliminary estimation of cost, which is definitely large. But, the reality is that as the poet said - "the longest journey starts with the shortest steps" - and we are many more steps down the journey, now we have this report. I will blog more after the meeting,but want to sit down with COGS and the team first, so we can undertake a detailed appraisal and assess the next steps. 

On Friday I start with a further meeting on efforts to get road safety improvements to the A69 at Henshaw before I am out west in Slaggyford and Eals meeting with the County Highways team and both inspecting road repairs, and discussing culverts that could stop some houses being flooded. Along the way at County Hall I will be raising road repairs, potholes, drain clearance and ditch clearance.