Campaign for Rail Improvements Launched

Campaign for Rail Improvements Launched by North East Business Group
The North East Chamber of Commerce wants upgrades to make the East Coast mainline a better service. The North East’s largest business organisation has launched a long-term campaign to improve the East Coast mainline – on the day commuters suffered major disruption on the line. The North East England Chamber of Commerce’s Fast Track East Coast campaign says upgrades are needed on the line to make sure the region gets the benefits of the planned HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail projects.

The campaign highlights how trains can often be delayed or cancelled because there is only one line north and one south between Northallerton, Newcastle and Berwick – with that point being proven by major disruption caused by damage to overhead wires between Durham and Darlington.

But the Chamber has stressed that the campaign is long-term and unlikely to make any difference for the next five years because of the long timescales involved in rail investment. That has led the organisation to put a call out to companies and other travellers from the region to give it evidence of how problems on the East Coast mainline have impacted their business.

The Chamber wants to make sure the argument for investment is impossible for Ministers to ignore, following a strategy that helped the region win investment for new trains for the Tyne and Wear Metro.

Jonathan Walker, the Chamber’s assistant director for policy, said: “On the whole, we do enjoy good connectivity north and south…but such is the fragility of the network that it only takes a minor issue to have major repercussions.

“Capacity issues on the line are already constraining growth. With a predicted increase in demand for long-distance rail services in the years to come, this fragility is likely to be exposed even further. Significant upgrades to the line are needed to ensure it can both continue to serve the needs of our businesses and act as a catalyst for investment and regeneration. That is why the Chamber is launching a major campaign to secure that investment and ensure that Government and Network Rail place East Coast mainline at the top of their list of priorities”

“The Fast Track East Coast campaign will highlight how valuable rail connectivity is to our businesses and our region; showcasing the firms that rely on ageing infrastructure to meet clients, travel between sites and move their products, as well as raising awareness of what needs to be done to preserve and improve the connections in and out of the North East.”

The Chamber campaign – which has been welcomed by Newcastle North MP Catherine McKinnell – has come as The Journal and other newspapers across the North have launched the Power Up the North campaign to push all the political parties to commit to closing the North-South divide.

Among the main aims of the campaign are commitments to increase investment in infrastructure in the North, as well as a greater commitment to devolution and higher spending on education and skills.

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