Talks to halt plans to cut rail services
CUTS to the number of mainline train services stopping at Peterborough could be averted as discussions have opened between city business leaders and rail operators East Coast.
City regeneration body Opportunity Peterborough had been due to launch a campaign against plans by Government-owned East Coast to cut 18 services through Peterborough.
OP – responsible for developing the city’s economy – planned to call on firms in Peterborough to lobby East Coast over the cuts.
But within hours of issuing a press release about the campaign yesterday, OP received word from East Coast that they would agree to talks.
OP director of economic development Neil Darwin said he had received assurances that East Coast were willing to reconsider their proposals and take measures – such as doubling capacity of some trains from 250 to 500 people – to minimise the impact of service cuts on passengers.
He said: “We are having positive discussions with East Coast about improving the capacity on trains and keeping services broadly the same as they are now.
“It’s really good news and East Coast are recognising that Peterborough is a very important railway stop strategically.”
East Coast announced it would cut 21 services running through Peterborough in April, as part of its timetable overhaul known as Eureka!
After a review, this number was reduced to 18, with three extra services being added between the city and London King’s Cross.
However, OP felt the new timetable would damage the future growth of Peterborough and claimed the cuts were unnecessary, as the number of visitors to Peterborough Railway Station had risen from 3.38 million in 2002/03 to 4.45million in 2008/09.
East Coast said its new timetable was not just about cuts.
In May, it added three new services through Peterborough – meaning the 17.19pm service from King’s Cross now has a Peterborough stop, while services to London will stop at Peterborough at 7.03pm and 7.06pm.
East Coast said it is also making its services to London faster by five minutes through its reduced timetable.
A spokesman said: “East Coast is working hard to balance the aspirations of communities along the whole 920 miles of our route. We are discussing the latest proposals with Opportunity Peterborough.”
Peterborough MP Stewart Jackson said he would be willing to speak to ministers about the issue.
He said: “I am happy to lobby ministers but I would like to see the rationale first on the decision to cut services.
“It would be a false economy for East Coast to reduce services because Peterborough is expanding its population.
“It is in their interest to have a cheap, good quality service to London and the north of England.
“As we come out of the recession, more people will want to commute to jobs and they should think very carefully about doing anything precipitous.”
OP’s efforts were praised by Peterborough City Council leader Marco Cereste, who said: “I understand East Coast have efficiencies to make, but we don’t want anything to happen that could make growth in Peterborough more difficult.”
Insurance company BGL, based in Bakewell Road, Peterborough, also welcomed OP’s action and expressed concern about possible cuts.
A spokesperson said: “We would be concerned if this were the start of ongoing cuts.
“Many of our employees travel to London very regularly and significant impact on the rail service could cause a lot of inconvenience.”
Saj Mahid, chairman for the Peterborough Hackney Carriage Association, added: “We rely on commuters and this would mean less people commuting.”
Non-business passengers are also worried. Student Liz Brown (22) said: “I’m at Newcastle University and my parents live in Northampton. I rely on the train to get to Peterborough, where they can pick me up.
“I would have no alternative but to get the more crowded train.”
PICTURE OF THE DAY THE flowers in the fields bordering Thornhaugh, near Wansford, create an oil painting effect in the picture.
Picture: GEORGI MABEE