North East Coastliners

"A Voice for Durham Coast Rail Users"

Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen has announced a £35million transformation of Middlesbrough Station to deliver more train services to the town, including the first direct rail link to London in decades.

Mayor Houchen has committed £22.5million to the scheme which, in its first phase early next year, will see a platform extension facilitate more services and longer trains. The extended platform 2 will be able to accommodate new LNER Azuma trains as Mayor Houchen leads discussions with the government-owned operator to restore daily services from Middlesbrough to the capital.

The scheme will also see major customer service improvements at the station including a new £6.5million entrance, with accompanying business units on Zetland Road. A third phase could see a new platform 3 built to the north of platform 2 to further increase train capacity within the station.

The scheme is a joint partnership between the Tees Valley Mayor and Combined Authority, Network Rail, Middlesbrough Council and the Department for Transport, with support from train operators.

Mayor Houchen said: “For years people have talked about the need to develop this station to get new services but very little has actually been done, so I’m putting my money where my mouth is to deliver increased capacity at the station and help bring us the services the people of Middlesbrough and Teesside deserve. Increasing the frequency of services and train routes is a key part of my plan to for workers, local jobs and wages to restore our way of life once we’re through the pandemic.

“While we will also make major improvements in customer areas, including a modern and much more accessible front entrance, first and foremost this is about increasing the capacity of the station to accommodate more and longer trains.

“I have been leading very positive discussions with LNER and Network Rail to work with them and partners to introduce the first services between London and Middlesbrough in decades and, as they have told me, the increased station capacity is crucial to achieving this.

“Network Rail expects to start work to expand platform 2 in early 2021, and we’re hoping to get confirmation of a service to London in 2021 which would be a great boost for businesses and people in Middlesbrough.

“While there are lots of things to consider when planning the introduction of new services, including the supply of rolling stock, the impact of the recent pandemic and infrastructure upgrades across the rail network, I will make sure we play our part in encouraging the operators to bring new services to our region by getting the station ready as quickly as we can. Capacity is already stretched, and doing nothing is not an option.”

Matt Rice, North and East Route Director at Network Rail, said: “We’ve been working for many months with Mayor Houchen and the other stakeholders involved at Middlesbrough to move forward the long-held aspiration to secure a direct-to-London train service without unduly impacting the services that already serve the town.

A brief update on Coastliners’ Rail User Group activities during the later months of 2020:

  1. Unable to hold open meetings we managed a “live” Committee Meeting in August, at the Athenaeum, to work out our response to the House of Commons Transport Committee’s Inquiry on how to get people back on to trains and buses once the Covid crisis was over. Our main points are these:

[i] Government’s discouragement of public transport use has already lowered train loadings dangerously. Even if “safety” was the main reason for it, we think an immediate reversal of this bias is essential.

[ii] Too many initial difficulties confront passengers in getting details about catching trains and buses, and paying the cheapest legitimate fares for them. Simplification here will be key to regaining traffic generally.

[iii] Too many journeys turn out to be complicated by en-route change of train. Far more places need direct services to far more destinations than are offered now. In other words, rail routes and services must be spread more evenly across all routes – the exact opposite of current belief that one line (plus local connections) can best serve all.

[iv]  As an example of what we mean, we have cited Tees Valley Combined Authority’s stated desire for hourly high-quality express trains along our Coast line – notably Cross-Country – to add to Grand Central’s well-established, but Covid-19-interrupted, London – Sunderland services. We fully support TVCA’s wishes.

 

  1. Given current restrictions, our campaigning has to be at arms’ length. In practice, this means asking around for comments to add to a Coastliners’ response to as many of a bewildering array of requests as we can, whenever we hear about them. In particular, we shall be formulating our reply to the North-East Joint Transport Committee’s draft Transport Planinvolving many proposals on improvements in the next 15 years or more, with public consultation open until mid-January. We need to make sure that the Coast line’s train services better match the needs of the half million people who live along it.  If anyone should wish to make comments to us please send them to info@necoastliners.co.uk to arrive no later than 9th January please