Agenda item

East Coast Mainline December 2024 Timetable

For the Committee to consider the proposed timetable changes.

Lead: Jonathan Brown


6.1             In introducing this item the Chair informed the Committee that this issue is of great concern to Members on the East of the Pennines, particularly those in the North East region.  Additionally, he brought the Committee’s attention to a letter that had been received from the Minister on this just prior to the start of the meeting.   He then highlighted the fact that it is getting close to agreeing arrangements for this timetable change.


6.2          Members received the report from the Head of Strategic Rail who outlined the key points within the report.


6.3          Members then received a presentation from Mr Simon Leyshon of Network Rail and an update from Mr Rob Warnes of Northern Trains.


6.4          The Chief Executive provided the Committee with an update.  He informed Members that he and the Chair of the Transport for the North Board  had met with the Rail Minister and raised concerns about the East Coast Mainline timetable.


Prior to commencement of the Committee meeting, a written response had been received from the Minister.  Within the letter the Minister addressed the issues of infrastructure on the East Coast mainline north of York, which is being developed through the Business Case process.  He explained that this work is in the pipeline and therefore a case for investment does not need to be made and subject to the work being completed this will go into delivery. The Minister also provided a recognition of the importance given by the north to increasing services, connectivity and growth of rail services as part of the long term strategy for the North and the need to provide an enhanced service between Newcastle and Manchester.  The final point highlighted the need to strengthen the working relationship and having a stronger voice in the North.


6.5          Cllr Gannon acknowledged and recognised the representations made by the industry and then stressed the importance of having an additional hourly service between Newcastle and London because of the benefits it will bring for not only for Newcastle but for the wider national economy as well. 


He then provided the Committee with background on this issue explaining that this issue dates back to 2021 where the East Coast Main Line became critically constrained with local trains, cross Pennine trains and freight trains all running on the same line.  This resulted in trains not stopping at a number of important stations across the North East.

In addressing the issues raised in the Minister’s letter he recognised the firm commitment that things will be examined positively; however he believes that something more than reassurances are required. He highlighted the disastrous timetable change of 2018 and the assurances that were given to the North West about infrastructure investment that would be made prior to the implementation of the timetable, which didn’t happen.

He informed the Committee that he believes there are proposals to increase the capacity on the East Coast Main Line and that engineering interventions can be made, of which he requested to see the details.  He expressed concern that details have been shared with officers but are subject to non-disclosure agreements which he believes is unacceptable. He requested that at a minimum, details of the engineering interventions and timetable for their implementation should be shared.  Additionally, he wanted to see that they are costed and funded and that they will be implemented before the timetable changes, or at least a guarantee that they will be completed.

6.6          Cllr Hinchcliffe stated that the investment on the East Coast Main Line needs to happen and that a firm timetable showing what is going to happen and when it is needed. She stated that services where profits are made should be reinvested into the network to make sure that other services can be introduced and run.  She enquired as to whether a business case has been produced for the whole network enabling them to see if profits can be used to sustain other routes which are currently not as strong.


6.7          Commenting on the proposals, Cllr Harker believed that they are the ‘best of a bad job.’ Whilst accepting the current position on capacity, he expressed concern about what will happen in the future with regard to required infrastructure changes to improve capacity.  He was also keen to establish that the same situation will not be faced in a year's time for the December 2025 timetable.


6.8          The Chair expressed his support for Members in the North East and  agreed that they need to have access to the proposed interventions and the timetable outlining when and where work will take place.

Additionally he was appreciative of the Minister's commitments, but stated that if the benefits of these changes are to be realised then there needs to be a commitment to the services between Middlesbrough and Newcastle and Leeds and Sheffield as well as a commitment as to when these services will be funded.

6.9          In summing up the Committee’s conversations, the Chair highlighted the clear request of the Committee for the funding of new services that are made possible by this timetable.  On the interventions that are being discussed but have not been shared, he stated that any changes to the timetable without clarity about when the rest of the infrastructure will go in are not right and fair to Members, who feel the effects of these changes.


6.10       The Chief Executive stated that he would take the Committee’s comments away and work with the industry as quickly as possible in order to provide reassurance.  He agreed to bringing an update to the Full TfN Board on 14 December.


6.11       The Chair requested that Chief Executive send a letter to the Minister summarising the Committee’s discussions and to seek further assurances on infrastructure. He further stated that there is overcrowding on the railway in these areas so the business case for additional services should be relatively easy made.


1)   That the Committee advises the Rail North Partnership Board that  the timetable does not meet Transport for the North’s minimum requirements;

2)   That Members comments on the next steps required to enable the required level of regional connectivity be noted;

3)   That the Chief Executive responds to the Minister’s letter summarising the Committee’s debate and seeking further assurance on infrastructure.


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