Feasibility Study: Enhanced Rail Services between Edinburgh and Newcastle

1 Introduction

1.1 Background

1.1.1 MVA Consultancy was appointed by ScotRail on behalf of Transport Scotland in 2010 to analyse the business case for enhancements to rail services on the line between Edinburgh and Newcastle. The appraisal was to utilise an approach compliant with the Scottish Transport Appraisal Guidance (STAG), and was intended to build on the findings of previous studies undertaken in the corridor.

1.1.2 The stated objective of the study was to 'provide a complete, operationally robust, demand driven and economically sustainable train service proposal for the Edinburgh-Newcastle route, having considered and appraised all of the stakeholder desires'. The analysis was to include the potential for new stations at East Linton and / or Reston.

1.2 East Coast Rail Utilisation Study

1.2.1 This study follows on from analysis undertaken during the East Coast Route Utilisation Study (RUS) produced by Network Rail in 2008. The RUS identified a number of 'gaps' of relevance to this section of the route as follows:

  • irregular service intervals;
  • stopping patterns at smaller stations;
  • increase in local services in Scotland; and
  • the speeding up of Long Distance High Speed (LDHS) services.

1.2.2 In turn, the RUS developed and appraised a range of potential service enhancements to address these gaps. The relevant options for this study were:

  • Newcastle to Edinburgh semi-fast service;
  • Berwick-upon-Tweed to Edinburgh local service, with new stations at Reston and East Linton; and
  • new Dunbar to Edinburgh hourly service.

1.2.3 The RUS also noted that the then upcoming major changes to the East Coast Main Line (ECML) timetable would have a significant impact on the operational viability and potential business case for any new services.

1.3 EUREKA Timetable

1.3.1 The 22nd May 2011 marked the introduction of the 'EUREKA' timetable on the East Coast Main Line (ECML). This was hailed as the biggest change on the East Coast route for more than 20 years. The new timetable brought more than three million additional seats per year to the route, 19 new services per weekday, an improved frequency and pattern of services, faster typical journeys for millions of passengers and improved First Class facilities.

1.3.2 The main benefits and changes resulting from the new timetable were reported as1 :

  • a new early morning four-hour 'Flying Scotsman' service between Edinburgh (0540) and London, calling only at Newcastle;
  • a train every 30 minutes between Leeds and London King's Cross, with 65 services per weekday between West Yorkshire and the capital;
  • 11 new non-stop services per day between York and London;
  • an improved First Class including complimentary food and drink served at-seat and quiet coach;
  • a northbound direct service from London to Harrogate for the first time in 20 years;
  • a new daily Lincoln to London return service;
  • one hour later weekday departures to Edinburgh, Berwick-upon-Tweed and Newcastle from London King's Cross (the 1900);
  • improvements to services for Northumberland stations, including a new early-morning service from Berwick-upon-Tweed (0600), Alnmouth and Morpeth which connects into the 'Flying Scotsman' service at Newcastle. This enables customers from Northumberland to arrive into London at 0940; and
  • improvements to Newark morning peak services to London King's Cross, with two additional new services.

1.3.3 This significant recast of the ECML timetable forms the context for this feasibility study. The key element of the RUS which is taken forward here is the operational viability of the potential new services, which was not tested in detail in the RUS.

1.3.4 It is important to note that the scope of this study was limited to the consideration of additional services on top of the new EUREKA timetable. Measures which would make changes to the EUREKA timetable were therefore not considered, given the very substantial recast of the timetable which had been undertaken for EUREKA.

1.4 The Area

1.4.1 The proposals here primarily affect East Lothian, the Scottish Borders and Northumberland. It is important to note that, unlike some other areas of Scotland, the projections produced by General Register Office for Scotland (GROS) show that East Lothian and the Scottish Borders are growing areas. Indeed East Lothian's population is projected to grow considerably by 33% between 2008 and 2032, with the equivalent figure for the Scottish Borders being 16%. In England, the population of Northumberland is projected to grow by 8% over the same period (Office for National Statistics).

1.4.2 East Lothian in particular is also highly reliant on the Edinburgh area for employment. The 2001 Census results showed that around 40% of all East Lothian employed residents travelled to the City of Edinburgh area for employment, and the existing rail services play a key role in meeting and indeed leading this demand, ie many people move to East Lothian in part due to the availability of these rail services.

1.4.3 The Scottish Borders is generally more self-contained in terms of employment with only 7% working in Edinburgh and 85% living and working within the Scottish Borders council area. The overall study area is shown in outline in Figure 1.1 below.

Figure 1.1 Study Area

Figure 1.1 Study Area

1.4.4 The following chapters cover:

  • a brief review of previous studies undertaken in the corridor;
  • the current rail services and market trends in the Edinburgh to Newcastle corridor;
  • consultation - what enhancements would local stakeholders like to see?
  • timetable analysis - what services could be run in light of the May 2011 timetable? and
  • what are the benefits and costs associated with these services?