Northern leaders concerned about 'levelling down' after train service shake up

A state-run train operating company has been accused of “levelling down” the North after it announced plans to cut back rail services so more trains can run to London.

London North Eastern Railway (LNER) has announced proposed timetable changes for the East Coast Mainline, which are due to come into effect in May 2022.
London North Eastern Railway (LNER) has announced proposed timetable changes for the East Coast Mainline, which are due to come into effect in May 2022.

Northern leaders are urging London North Eastern Railway (LNER), which is owned by the Department of Transport, to reconsider proposed timetable changes for the East Coast Mainline, which are due to come into effect in May 2022.

According to the proposals, LNER is planning to cut back the Manchester Airport to Newcastle service – so it only runs from Manchester Victoria to York – as this will allow an extra service to run from London to Newcastle every hour.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

There are also plans to alter the Liverpool Lime Street to Edinburgh Waverley service, so it only runs between Liverpool and Newcastle, and remove the daily direct service to Sunderland.

The number of services running from Bradford to London is also due to be cut, from two to one.

Responding to a consultation on the proposals, Transport for the North (TfN) states there would be “significant reductions in regional connectivity” and the proposed changes “do not reflect the levelling up agenda”.

At a TfN meeting yesterday, Councillor Susan Hinchcliffe, leader of Bradford Council, said: “We shouldn’t be talking here about a choice between east-west and north-south. We’ve said before, again and again, that actually we need both to give us good, economic sustainability for the future.

“It highlights why we need that investment in Northern Powerhouse Rail and in HS2.”

Liam Robinson, lead member for transport on Liverpool City Council, said it is another example of a “north-south choice trumping an east-west choice” even though Northern leaders have spent years campaigning against “skewed investment to London and the South East”.

He said: “My great frustration, and I’ll put it as a suspicion here, is actually this isn’t about connections from the North down to London. I’m very concerned this is actually all about putting in a little bit more capacity south of Peterborough to support commuting journeys into London.”

He added: “It is going to put us back. This ain’t levelling up, it’s levelling down.”

Jamie Driscoll, North of Tyne Mayor, called for the timetable changes to be “put on hold” and said the Department for Transport should set up a task force to examine the constraints on the East Coast Main Line and “put forward options to resolve them both short term and long term”.

He said: “Yet again, this is coming down to running the economy in a London-centric way for connectivity to London, when we already have good connectivity, to destroy connectivity across the North and between the northern cities.”

LNER has been approached for a comment and the proposals are currently subject to an eight-week public consultation.