New East Coast Main Line timetable means trade-offs

Newcastle will get more and faster rail services to London under timetable revisions announced by LNER, but there will be what the train operation admits will be difficult trade-offs for some other stations.

LNER is consulting on proposed timetable changes, which are due to come into operation in May 2022. The consultation runs until August 5, though the company warns that as the new timetable is the culmination of ten years planning changes are unlikely to be able to be made.

 Under the new timetable, LNER will run six services per hour into and out of London King’s Cross compared with five at present. There will be 8,300 more seats each way between London and Newcastle than in 2019 and the journey will be around 10 minutes faster. Sunday services will be brought more in line with weekdays.

However, Berwick will have only one London train every other hour instead of every hour, though it will still have an hourly service to Newcastle and Edinburgh with Cross Country. Alnmouth will also have one train every other hour to London and one per hour to and from Edinburgh and Newcastle alternating between LNER and Cross Country.

In 2019 Darlington had two London trains per hour serving 2,200 passengers per day while Durham had fewer services and more passengers. Under the new timetable Durham will have slightly more services and Darlington fewer.

A separate consultation is currently being conducted by Darlington Council into proposed £100m improvements to the town’s station which it said were needed to enable the growth in train services in the coming years. LNER does, however, say that its new timetable ‘is not the end of improvements to services’.

Before the pandemic there were two services per hour between Newcastle and London with LNER, two per hour between Newcastle and Birmingham with Cross Country and two per hour between Newcastle and Manchester with Transpennine.

However, the rail network north of York does not have the capacity to maintain all these in addition to the new LNER timetable and other changes including five First Group services per day between London and Edinburgh. So there will only be one service per hour between Newcastle and Manchester. Grand Central will increase its service between Sunderland and London from five to six per day but LNER’s early morning and late night trainns on the route will be scrapped.

You can read the LNER consultation document here.

The changes are likely to increase calls from North East politicians for the re-opening of the Leamside Line between Pelaw in Tyne and Wear and Tursdale in County Durham in order to ease pressure on the East Coast Main Line.

According to ChronicleLive, the proposed timetable changes were described by Councillor Martin Gannon, chair of the North East Joint Transport Committee, as ‘almost like a disaster scenario’ which would ‘significantly hamper the economic prospects of major centres of population’.