Talks to halt plans to cut rail ser­vices

The Peterborough Evening Telegraph - - Front Page - By ADAM UREN

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.


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