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Report on meeting on 31st July

The meeting opened by noting the sad loss, early in June, of Chris Benson who had, until around four years ago, been Northern Station Manager in our area and a great friend of several volunteer railway groups, including Coastliners who had been represented at Chris’s funeral at Malton.

John O’Grady (Client and Stakeholder Manager, Northern Rail , Tees, South & East Yorkshire) provided us with a Power Point presentation on Northern Rail’s operations

The DfT have recently granted Northern a Direct Award, extending their franchise to 6th February 2016. However with less subsidy (£632m) than they requested it is a case of doing more with less. Under this new award Northern shoulder all the revenue risks. The original franchise had been let on a no growth, no capital investment basis, whereas Northern had seen a 47% growth to 93m journeys per year. However they had been able to lever in £130m from local funds to spend mainly on station improvements and train upgrades – upholstery, paintwork & toilets etc.
The new regime would see concentration on the Right Time Railway , taking into account punctuality at all station stops rather than just the terminal point as in the present PPM system. Under MD Alex Hynes, the company had been reorganised under three directors Customer Experience, Operations and Delivery. There was to be a six figure investment in new ticket machines and customer information systems at 100 more stations. There would be continuing support for Community Rail. At the insistence of DfT who wished to see more fares income, evening peak restrictions were to be introduced on some lines – in the North East just Newcastle to Hexham.
The period running up to the awarding of a new franchise in 2016  would see the first fruits of  £1.5bn  investments in infrastructure – notably electrification in the north west & new stations in Yorkshire. There were also proposals for stations at Peterlee & Gilsland.
Northern were also looking at electrification from Newcastle to MetroCentre for trains to Morpeth, but the view of the meeting was that Morpeth would be better served by extending Trans Pennine services.

We also discussed the DfT consultation on the Northern/Trans Pennine Express new franchises
click here to view pdf

Report on meeting with Northern Rail 27th February 2014

The meeting was addressed by two guest speakers from Northern Rail

Bob Warnes, Planning & Programme Director whose role was to develop the network with Network Rail and other stakeholders and to look after Northern’s track access regimes.

Simon Cox, Service Development & Planning Manager. His role was the planning and diagramming of Northern’s services including future developments

There was to be a£2m investment in the North’s railways including the North West electrification projects and ‘Northern Hub’ improvements. The latter included more services and shorter travel times for Yorkshire - Manchester inter-city journeys. Every £1 of subsidy spent on the North’s railways was estimated to result in growth of £2 in the North’s economy. Bob described how they collected together all ideas from stakeholders and tested them to see if they were both possible and affordable. In recent years major changes had been forced upon Northern’s services due to

  • Virgin’s West Coast timetable in 2009
  • East Coast (ECML) ‘Eureka’ changes in 2011
  • Trans Pennine‘s(TPE) 5 trains per hour’ timetable coming into force in May 2014

Of major concern to those present was the loss from the start of the summer timetable of reasonable connections from Durham Coast Line trains into TPE services at Thornaby. Simon said that they had tried numerous combinations, but, apart from the need to fit in with Grand Central, Nexus and freight services Coast Line services were also constrained, by

Saltburn line services in the south which themselves were constrained by limited paths available at Darlington.

Tyne Valley services in the north. These were largely fixed by paths for Morpeth -Metrocentre trains on the East Coast main line and paths at Carlisle and even Glasgow for through trains to Scotland.

Even small changes were constrained by the short turn round times at Hexham (7 minutes) and with the new hourly timetable, 12 minutes at Nunthorpe. This latter would serve the new James Cook station which was expected to come into use in the summer. Network Rail planning rules also required drivers to be able to always see green signals if all trains run to time. Any changes which involved an extra unit were rejected as no extra trains were available. However our guests agreed to have another look at Sunday connections at Thornaby.

Currently detailed proposals for further TPE and ECML service changes in 2016 were awaited. It was hoped that these would provide opportunities to recast all these north-east interlocking services. In the meantime there were to be some infrastructure improvements to increase speed limits on the Durham coast and there was to be an ARUP study into the possible new Peterlee station. From May a late TPE train from Newcastle to York will make a stop at Chester-le-Street. This will release a Northern unit to run later down the coast on Saturdays to give departures from Newcastle at 2030 & 2130..

Some concerns were expressed about Rail North being only interested in services south and west of York. Nexus were now to lead a consortium of politicians and stakeholders in the north-east. It was felt essential that they come up with a rail strategy for the region.

“ A voice for Durham Coast rail users ”

Seaton Carew gets another hump

A second Harrington Hump has now been installed on the southbound platform. So called because the first such installation was at Harrington on the Cumbria Coast line, the hump raises the height of the low platform over a short section to make boarding easier for persons of reduced mobility. Stop boards are also installed to ensure that trains stop with one door adjacent to the hump.

Seaham Pedestrian Underpass opened

The pedestrian underpass at Seaham station has finally been opened, though landscaping remains to be completed. Consequently the crossing and the Gate Box (the former signal box) have been taken out of use.

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