Agenda item

Questions from Members


Councillor C Martin asked the following question:


All train operators are beginning a consultation on new timetables that run across the North East. Can Cabinet assure the Council that they use all avenues available to them to lobby operators for more services and the best possible timetable?  In particular, to improve the current poor service for Chester-le-Street railway station.


Councillor E Scott, Cabinet Portfolio Holder for Economy and Partnerships thanked Councillor Martin for his question and provided the following response:


The government have set out that the purpose of the East Coast Main Line consultation is to try and deliver benefits from the current round of investment such as the infrastructure work in Peterborough and London Kings Cross, and the new higher performance IEP Azuma fleet built at Heighington. However, despite this investment it is acknowledged there still remains severe capacity constraints on the line, particularly north of Northallerton, which has a negative impact on the North East.


The proposals currently being put forward by the train operators led by LNER for County Durham are mixed with an hourly service at Chester-le-Street provided by Trans Pennine Express, rather than the current one train every two hours, something long called for by local residents. 


By contrast there are disbenefits in Durham City which will see a reduction of 8 trains per day with some services bunched together leaving larger timetable gaps for passengers.  The changes would also potentially undermine the long-term future of the links from the East Coast main line to Bishop Auckland. 


We also recognise that many other locations across the region are seeing a reduction in services.


We remain committed to working at a regional level and support the calls from the Joint Transport Committee for a Taskforce to be established to examine capacity constraints and put forward options to solve both short and long term issues.  We also support the request from the Joint Transport Committee that such a taskforce should plan to introduce timetable changes slowly, aligned with capacity growth, and with no detriment to existing connectivity.


You can be assured that throughout this process we will be seeking to deliver improvements both at a regional and County level and I have made my views clear on this through the regional Joint Transport Committee.


Councillor Martin thanked Councillor E Scott for her response and asked whether, in the event that the regionwide response to the consultations did not serve the best interests of County Durham, Councillor Scott would ensure she gave a firm voice against the Joint Transport Committee proposals and provide a clear pro-County Durham response.  Councillor Scott confirmed she would do this adding that she had highlighted to the Joint Transport Committee how pleased Durham County Council was about the suggestions for Chester le Street while stressing the need to balance the wider needs of County Durham.