Rail joy for passengers
The Hexham Courant: 29/12/2006
By JOSEPH TULIP
RAIL users in Tynedale are in line for a major boost in the new year, with plans to increase train services at some of the district’s stations.
From May, all passenger trains from Newcastle to Carlisle will stop at Prudhoe – almost doubling the daily service in the town, with a train due every half hour.
The Tyne Valley Community Rail Partnership hopes to convince Northern Rail to follow up its plans for Prudhoe by increasing the number of stops at Haydon Bridge and Bardon Mill.
It is a complete turn-around for the line, which has been plagued by closure rumours for decades.
Leading rail campaigner Malcolm Chainey, who is a member of the rail partnership, is convinced that a much improved service will be in place when the new timetable for the Tyne Valley line begins in May.
The rail partnership, made a series of recommendations to the train operators after an 18 month study which started in 2005. The study found there was a strong case for all trains stopping at Prudhoe.
Mr Chainey said: “Northern Rail has picked up on that and on the summer timetable, we are told, that all trains will be stopping at Prudhoe.”
The changes will be noticed mainly during daylight hours. Most trains already stop at Prudhoe during early morning and evening rush hours, but the new timetable will introduce stops every half hour in-between, instead of the hourly stops currently in place.
Mr Chainey hopes that more service improvements will be implemented at other stations in the district.
He added: “We feel Haydon Bridge station is big enough to justify an hourly service.
“Other stations, at Bardon Mill, Brampton and Wetheral, have four hour gaps at times, which means that they don’t serve a very useful purpose.”
During the £20,000 study, consultants carried out a number of surveys in which they quizzed rail users on the recommendations.
They found Wylam had a “significant case” for improved services, but concluded that no more stops were required at Stocksfield, Riding Mill and Corbridge.
Mr Chainey added: “If the changes at Prudhoe are a success, it makes a case for more stops at the other stations stronger. We hope that the passengers will roll up.”
A Northern Rail spokesman said: “There has been a recommendation that all Newcastle to Carlisle services stop at Prudhoe.
“However, we are in the planning and agreement process, and cannot confirm that this is going to happen in May.”
If improved services are implemented at Prudhoe, it will be a double boost for public transport in the town.
Northumberland County Council is setting up a £400,000 bus and rail interchange to link the railway station with bus routes which take in the town centre.
A former factory site immediately south-east of the station has been earmarked as a base for the interchange, which will include a bus stop, a turning area, car parking space and a pedestrian access way to the station.
County councillor for Prudhoe, Tony Reid, said: “It is hoped that the interchange will be finished by the spring, which would tie in nicely with the timetable changes.
“I am naturally pleased that train services at Prudhoe station look set to be improved. There is a demand, there’s no doubt about that, and this encourages people to use public transport.
“Prudhoe is growing, and is it important to have a good service to Newcastle, and to the west.”
Bus and rail link go-ahead
The Newcastle Journal: Dec 28 2006
Life for commuters in a Northumberland town will soon be made easier thanks to a £400,000 bus and rail interchange.
Work on the new interchange in Prudhoe is due to start early in the New Year after Northumberland County Council finally completed the purchase of the land. It is hoped work will be complete by spring.
The scheme aims to integrate the bus and train services in line with Government planning guidelines.
The Bus Meets Train Project Partnership, which is behind the scheme, was formed as a result of the successful award of Department for Transport Rural Bus Challenge Grant Funding Bid in 2003.
The steep hill dividing the town of Prudhoe from its railway station is currently a barrier to local people accessing rail.
The project partners have worked with transport users in the town, where the population has continued to grow over the years.
The new interchange will allow space for buses to stop every 15 minutes to pick up passengers.
There will also be 27 car parking spaces, two of which will be for disabled drivers, and four taxi bays.
It will also include a ramp and stair access to the station platform.
John Smith, the county council's executive member for highways and operations, said: "The interchange will provide residents, commuters and visitors with enhanced public transport facilities and opportunities for more flexible travel arrangements."
The Prudhoe partners include local county councillors, Tynedale District Council, Prudhoe Town Council, Prudhoe Community Partnership, Tyne Valley Rail Users Group, Northern Rail, the Arriva North East and Tyne Blue Line Bus Operators and Tynedale Community Rail Partnership.
The mayor of Prudhoe, Eileen Burt, said: "The town council has been working on this scheme for some years, so I'm delighted it is now set to go ahead."