Sunday, 26 January 2014

‘The Future of the East Coast Main Line breakfast event’

‘The Future of the East Coast Main Line breakfast event’ the title of a seminar on Friday 24th January 2014. I attended on behalf of Tyne Valley Line Rail Users (three of us there).

The agenda says much

The Future of the East Coast Main Line
Friday, 24 January 2014
Newcastle Civic Centre
 8.30am - 10.30am


Registration and Breakfast buffet


Introduction and welcome

·        Cllr Nick Forbes, Leader of Newcastle City Council


The business benefits of an effective East Coast Main Line
·        Heidi Mottram, Regional Chair, CBI


Views from the panel:

·        Chair Andrew Lewis, Assistant Chief Executive Newcastle City Council

·        Heidi Mottram, Regional Chair of the CBI

·        David Robinson, managing director of Tees Port

·        Graham Botham, Principal Strategic Planner, Network Rail

·        Martin Revill, Project Manager, JMP Consultants Ltd


Round table discussions


Questions and answers with panel 


Closing remarks and next steps
·        Cllr Bill Dixon, Leader of Darlington, on behalf of the East Coast Mainline Authorities Group

  So how did it go? Great to see a pretty high powered debate. Alex Nelson had to correct Nick Forbes on how a non stop train is not a direct train! Newcastle wants more of the former. It is so good Heidi Mottram is taking a lead on these matters. At last the quality of the debate is rising. She represents the CBI and they are telling her they want better rail services and that includes "lateral connectivity". Business men were standing up and saying welcoming a Hitachi CEO off  a Pacer does not work, another said he hates just missed (deliberately) connections at Newcastle on the Tyne Valley. Another businessman, our own Colin Moore called for Newcastle-Carlisle electrification. And why not? Heidi's knowledge was able to explain how hard she tried to get the Pacer's removed and how in 1991 the ECML was on average faster than it is today. Now PPMs and sheer volume of trains have slowed things down.

It all comes down to investment. This was not, despite Councillor Forbes' stand, a plea for renationalistion. Instead it was a general call for more money to be spent. A yes to HS2, start it in the North!!, A yes to telling everyone HS2 trains come to Newcastle. It was also about reopening the call, we want our European trains we were promised for 1994. It should be an easy quick win now.

I did notice how adept the Network Rail guy was at evasiveness when it came to committment to change! He obviously has lots or practice. He was not saying, we are going to relay the Leamside. Even Railtrack's Network Management Statement said they would!

The willingness of everyone to get into lateral connectivity was good. It's understood now how important Leamside is, what a miss it is, how important Tees Valley Metro, AB&T, Peterlee all are. But joining all this up is challenging. On that look at . This will increasingly appear to be the way forward with the local Northern franchise and local authorities will become more answerable for what we get. This is not quite the same as saying whether we get local rail management in Newcastle. Hopefully. If we do,a Newcastle Edinburgh semi fast giving a train every hour instead of every 12 between Morpeth and Berwick could result. That is a basic call. Belford and Reston may re-open. It was stimulating, the mood music was better than the past, much better. But we are not yet out of the woods. A 23 year old thicket going back to 1991 during which time what MAJOR changes have happened? Is Metro to the Airport and shared use to Sunderland such an achievement when the Leamside was lifted? And Sunderland was 2002, twelve very lean years of rail investment in the North East since.

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