Sunderland snubbed by rail improvement deal
Sunderland is seen as the ‘poor relation’ of the North East it has been claimed after a £1.2 billion boost to rail services across the north of England ‘virtually ignored’ the city.
The Department for Transport today (9th December) announced that new Northern Rail and TransPennine Express franchises will see new services, improved trains, and better railway facilities.
The new deals will start in April 2016 and will bring:
- 500 brand-new carriages
- the removal of the outdated and unpopular Pacer trains
- room for 40,000 extra passengers at the busiest times
- and more than 2,000 extra services a week will be delivered across the north.
The idea behind the changes is to provide better connections between cities across the North East and North West as part of the government’s ‘Northern Powerhouse’ project.
The government says that benefits in the North East include more TransPennine services to and from both Middlesbrough and Newcastle, as well as an increase in Northern Rail commuter services between Middlesbrough and Newcastle.
However Wearside Liberal Democrats have criticised the announcement for ignoring Sunderland.
Commenting, local Liberal Democrats spokesperson Niall Hodson said:
“This announcement shows that Sunderland has been virtually ignored when it comes to improvements in rail services. Whilst other Northern cities like Leeds, Bradford, Manchester, Newcastle and Liverpool are going to benefit hugely from the new services, our city has to make do with being a slightly more frequent stop on the existing route between Middlesbrough and the Metro Centre.
“Whilst these extra Northern Rail services are certainly to be welcomed, it is a far cry from what Sunderland deserves. Until 2004 we had direct connections to Leeds, Manchester, and Liverpool, with TransPennine Express services that started and finished in Sunderland. For too long now passengers have to change at Newcastle if they want to go practically anywhere else in the North, and this announcement does nothing to change that.
“We are urging the Department of Transport to look again at their plans, to see what can be done to bring back direct rail services between Sunderland and other northern cities.”
Mr Hodson added:
“I also want to know exactly what Wearside’s three MPs have been doing to lobby the government or work with the Department for Transport to get improvements to Sunderland’s rail services. It would appear from today’s announcement that they have either been ineffective and ignored by decision makers, or they haven’t been doing anything at all. In either case people across Sunderland deserve better.”
Notes to editors:.
A photo is attached: Wearside Lib Dem campaigner Niall Hodson at Sunderland Central Railway Station
The Department for Transport’s announcement can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/massive-boost-to-rail-services-brings-northern-powerhouse-to-life
Arriva Rail North Limited will run the Northern franchise from April 2016 until March 2025. Announced improvements include:
- more services providing space for nearly 30% more passengers into Newcastle during the morning rush hour
- a new high-quality ‘Northern Connect’ service, meaning new or refurbished trains on longer-distance services, faster journeys and stations staffed daily with catering services and free Wi-Fi at each one – as well as serving Newcastle, this network will also serve other destinations including Middlesbrough, Hexham and MetroCentre
- extra services to MetroCentre from Sunderland and Morpeth, Newcastle, Hexham and Carlisle, and between Bishop Auckland and Middlesbrough via Darlington
- more services between Middlesbrough and Newcastle, also benefiting Stockton; more evening services between Darlington and Middlesbrough; and extra services between Middlesbrough and Whitby
- improved ticketing, including mobile and print-at-home tickets, and discounted fares for jobseekers
First Trans Pennine Express Limited will operate services on the TransPennine Express franchise – which runs intercity services across the north-east and into Scotland – from April 2016 until March 2023. They will bring in 220 new carriages, equivalent to 44 trains, providing fast 125 mph services across the network, as well as introducing in the north-east:
- brand new, state of the art trains, providing 4 times the number of seats into Newcastle during the morning rush hour
- more services from Newcastle to York, Leeds and Manchester
- a new service from Newcastle to Edinburgh via Morpeth
- extra direct services from Middlesbrough to Leeds, Manchester and Manchester Airport on longer, new-build trains
- new cycling facilities and parcel collection services at Middlesbrough station
discounted advance fares for 16- to 18-year-olds and jobseekers