MAJOR CHANGES to services on the East Coast main line could happen from May 2022 as operators launched a consultation into the proposed timetable.
The timetable builds on infrastructure upgrades on the route to increase capacity, including recently completed work at King’s Cross. Most of the changes affect LNER, which is introducing new direct services to Middlesbrough and Cleethorpes, while there are more modest changes for TransPennine Express, CrossCountry and Northern.
LNER will operate six trains per hour from King’s Cross throughout the day, compared to five in most hours at present; it has rights to operate an additional two-hourly service which it aims to introduce in the mid-2020s. Among these are an hourly fast service to Edinburgh calling only at York and Newcastle, taking just over four hours, with a second hourly service running semi-fast with occasional extensions to Aberdeen, Inverness and Stirling. A third service will run as far as Newcastle; the once per day extension to Sunderland introduced by Virgin Trains East Coast is proposed to be dropped.
The other three hourly services comprise two to Leeds (with extensions to Harrogate every two hours and once per day to Skipton, Bradford and Huddersfield), with the last service alternating between Lincoln and York, with one extension per day to Cleethorpes and Middlesbrough respectively. The Middlesbrough service is due to be introduced in December 2021, although timings will change as part of the May 2022 recast.
The introduction of LNER’s third hourly service north of York (the Newcastle semi-fast) prompts changes for TransPennine Express. The Liverpool – Edinburgh service will be curtailed to Newcastle and the Manchester Airport – Newcastle service will run from Manchester Victoria to York. The Manchester Airport – Redcar Central service is to be extended to Saltburn, while there are more calls at Chester-le-Street.
CrossCountry is adding calls at Northallerton to replace calls dropped from TPE services. There are changes to stopping patterns north of Newcastle; the new station at Reston will be served by three CrossCountry and one LNER service in each direction per day, with some CrossCountry calls at Dunbar removed. Subject to discussions and funding, a limited Newcastle – Edinburgh TPE service could be introduced with stops at Reston and Dunbar.
Open access services will all continue; Grand Central’s London to Sunderland service increases from five to six trains per day, while provision is made in the timetable for FirstGroup’s East Coast Trains five London to Edinburgh services per day.
The main change at Northern is the doubling of frequency between Knaresborough and York to half-hourly, taking advantage of signalling and level crossing upgrades on this line, meaning two trains per hour between Leeds and York via Harrogate. In the North East, services from the Tyne Valley will no longer run through to Morpeth, with these services split at Newcastle.
The consultation ends on 5 August, with stakeholders and passengers invited to contact each operator regarding their services.