North East Lib Dems "cascade" call for regional rail revamp

November 30, 2010 1:42 PM

Opposition Lib Dem members on the Tyne & Wear Integrated Transport Authority are to press for the region's main public transport body to lobby for improvements to the region's rail rolling stock as part of the Government's plan to deliver 2000 new rail carriages over the next decade.

Newcastle Lib Dem councillor Greg Stone has called for the North East to make representations to ensure that the region benefits from the so-called "cascade", whereby new train vehicles are introduced on the busiest commuter services in London and the South East, freeing up other units to be based at the Heaton depot for allocation to regional routes.

This could allow redeployment of Express units currently based in the North West to other services, but this is expected to depend on the operational requirements of the Northern Rail franchise holder. Cllr Stone said "The North East has tended to be at the bottom of the pecking order for new stock and indeed under the last Labour government was in line to get only two new carriages for the region. London and the South East together with cities such as Leeds and Manchester have benefited from advanced and comfortable new stock on their electrified commuter routes, whereas the North East's local services rely on rather elderly diesel power in the form of 25-year old Class 150 Sprinter units, or the slow and uncomfortable Class 142 Pacer units.

"Given that the Government's new rail blueprint provides for the electrification of the Lancashire network between Liverpool, Blackpool, Preston, and Manchester, it is likely that this will free up some additional capacity in the form of better quality Class 158 Express diesel units, which are currently used on Transpennine and some Northern services"

"If surplus Class 158 units were used on intermediate distance North East routes such as the Tyne Valley line between Newcastle and Carlisle, or the Newcastle-Middlesbrough route, it would provide a faster and more comfortable service, and would generate greater passenger numbers. Less busy lines, such as the Middlesbrough-Whitby or Darlington-Bishop Auckland routes could replace the unsatisfactory Class 142 cattle-trucks with the remaining Class 156s.

I will be writing to the ITA, to Northern Rail, and to Lib Dem public transport minister Norman Baker to seek their support"