Feasibility Study: Enhanced Rail Services between Edinburgh and Newcastle
3 Current Rail Market in Corridor
3.1.1 There are three distinct components which form the market for rail travel in the corridor between Edinburgh and Newcastle and these are:
- local services between East Lothian and Edinburgh;
- local services between Northumberland and Newcastle; and
- Long Distance High Speed services between Edinburgh (and areas north) and Newcastle and beyond.
3.1.2 These three key market segments have to be accommodated within the constraints of the infrastructure and the paths available on the line, together with freight demand.
3.2.1 In more detail, the May 2011 services operating in the area are as follows:
- ScotRail services between Edinburgh and North Berwick (with intermediate stations at Musselburgh, Wallyford, Prestonpans, Longniddry and Drem);
- less frequent ScotRail services between Edinburgh and Dunbar (direct, with the exception of some trains stopping at Musselburgh);
- ScotRail services between Edinburgh and Newcraighall (no stations on ECML though);
- Cross Country services between Scotland and the south west / south coast of England (calling at some, or none of Dunbar, Berwick-upon-Tweed, Alnmouth and Morpeth);
- East Coast services between Scotland and London (calling at some, or none of Dunbar, Berwick-upon-Tweed, Alnmouth and Morpeth); and
- Northern Rail services between Newcastle and Morpeth / Chathill (calling at Manors, Cramlington, Pegswood, Widdrington, Acklington and Alnmouth).
3.2.2 There are also a range of freight services which are scheduled on the line.
3.2.3 A summary of May 2011 northbound and southbound services is shown in Figures 3.1 and 3.2 below respectively.
3.2.4 Figure 3.1 shows the departure times of trains throughout the day for northbound weekday trains between Edinburgh and Newcastle, by operator and ultimate origin / destination. It can be seen in particular how ScotRail services have been used to fill in most of the major weekday gaps in provision for trains between Dunbar and Edinburgh.
3.2.5 Dunbar is unusual in being served by a mixture of LDHS and local trains and the presence of LDHS services means that rail travel times to Edinburgh are very much shorter than for similar towns a comparable distance from Edinburgh or indeed Glasgow. Indeed the typical travel time of around 25 minutes is closer to travel times typically associated with Drem or Longniddry, which are far closer to Edinburgh.
3.2.6 Alnmouth in particular sees some significant 'gaps' in northbound provision throughout the day, of anything up to two hours. Figure 3.2 shows the same information for southbound services.
3.2.7 The distribution of southbound and northbound train departures across the day is shown in more detail in Figure 3.3 below for each of the four stations, by half hourly intervals. This allows 'gaps' in the current timetable to be identified at each station - for example Dunbar sees no southbound services between the periods 1300-1330 and 1500-1530.
3.2.8 The number of train calls per day at each station by operator is then summarised in Figure 3.4, this time including the local North Berwick to Edinburgh ScotRail services.
3.2.9 From May 2011, Dunbar therefore received 24 Cross Country / East Coast train calls per day with Berwick, Alnmouth and Morpeth receiving 49, 29 and 14 train calls respectively. The 14 LDHS trains at Morpeth are supplemented by the near-hourly Northern Rail service which also calls at Cramlington, some of which go on to Metrocentre. There is a relatively even split of these 'intermediate' stops between Cross Country and East Coast services, and the split between northbound and southbound services is fairly even.
3.2.10 Stations served by the North Berwick ScotRail service see around 18 trains to and from Edinburgh each day, providing an approximate hourly service with additional peak hour trains. The recently introduced ScotRail Dunbar services have brought Dunbar much closer to the other East Lothian stations in terms of overall number of trains per day.
3.2.11 In Northumberland, Chathill, Acklington, Widdrington and Pegswood have a very limited commuter service of two trains per day to and from Newcastle, ie two outward (one AM and one PM) and two return (one AM and one PM). These trains also call at Alnmouth and are the only Northern Rail services to do so.
3.3.1 Travel volumes for each station (entries and exists) are shown below in Figure 3.5 for 2009 / 10 using figures published by the Office of Rail Regulation (ORR) 2 These are split into season tickets, full fare and reduced fare.
3.3.2 It can be seen that the busiest stations in the area are North Berwick, Berwick-upon-Tweed and Musselburgh. Of the stations used by LDHS services (Cross Country and East Coast), the busiest is Berwick-upon-Tweed followed by Dunbar, Morpeth and Alnmouth. Volumes at the stations served by ScotRail generally reflect population and catchments, and reduce systematically with distance from Edinburgh, until the larger settlements of North Berwick and Dunbar are reached.
3.3.3 North Berwick in particular is an attractive seaside resort which also attracts significant numbers of tourist and leisure trips, ie it is not simply a 'commuter' station in the way that the others are and should be regarded as atypical in this context.
3.3.4 Taking 'season' as an indicator of commuting travel, high proportions are seen at Dunbar, Prestonpans, Cramlington, Drem and Wallyford. Berwick-upon-Tweed has by far the highest proportion of 'reduced' ticket sales (84%) and only 7% season tickets, indicating a very low proportion of commuting from Berwick, reflecting its distance from both Edinburgh and Newcastle. This data therefore gives a strong indication of the nature of market for travel from these stations.
3.3.5 As noted above, Chathill, Acklington, Widdrington and Pegswood have a very limited service of two trains per day to and from Newcastle. The travel volumes, which are very low indeed, reflect this as these services in essence provide a single train commuter service to and from Newcastle. These trains also call at Alnmouth.
3.3.6 Figure 3.6 below shows the destinations of those buying tickets at each of the four stations used by LDHS services.
3.3.7 It can therefore be seen that around 83% of travel from Dunbar is to Edinburgh and 11% is to destinations in England, with only around 2% going to London. By contrast, at Morpeth 98% of travel is intra-England with 80% being to Newcastle, and only 0.4% is destined for Edinburgh. At Berwick, the Scotland / England split is much more even, at 45% / 55% whilst Alnmouth is skewed towards Newcastle (43%). There is some travel between Alnmouth and Scotland (19% share).
3.3.8 Travel volumes between these four stations are small, a reflection of the relatively limited opportunities to travel directly between stations given the stopping patterns of the existing LDHS services.
3.3.9 The vast majority of travel from the East Lothian stations served by North Berwick services (over 90%) is to Edinburgh. Travel to destinations beyond Scotland accounts for less than 0.5% of total travel from these stations showing very low levels of interchange in Edinburgh and / or travel via Dunbar.
3.4.1 Growth in rail travel in the corridor has been strong in recent years. ORR figures suggest that recent growth in rail travel from East Lothian stations has been particularly strong, up overall by a factor of 49% in the last five years (2004/05 to 2009/10), an average of 8% per annum. This rate of growth is higher than the overall figure for growth in rail travel in Scotland which was 6% per annum3 .
3.4.2 Figure 3.7 shows that growth has been especially strong at the stations closer to Edinburgh, where Musselburgh, Wallyford and Prestonpans has seen double digit per annum growth in the last five years.
3.4.3 The growth in rail travel in Northumberland was slightly lower than that in East Lothian as can be seen in Figure 3.8, with an increase of 23% between 2004/05 and 2009/10, or 4% per annum. Again this has outstripped the national figure, where at the Great Britain level, rail journeys have grown by 2% per annum4 and have declined since peaking in 2007/08.
3.4.4 Alnmouth and Morpeth have seen high growth but there has been comparatively little growth at Berwick-upon-Tweed. Volumes at Acklington, Widdrington and Pegswood have actually declined from a low base in the last five years making the long term viability of these services open to question.
3.5.1 A number of previous studies have revealed different aspects of the market for rail travel in the east of Scotland.
3.5.2 Survey data has shown that commuting accounts for around 70% of all rail travel from East Lothian stations on average. Analysis of the 2001 Census travel to work data (at the 'settlement' level) has also shown a very strong relationship between (i) the percentage of the working residents in a settlement who work in Edinburgh; and (ii) the distance of that settlement from Edinburgh. A relationship would of course be expected but a very strong statistical relationship was found as shown in Figure 3.9 below.
3.5.3 During 2003, passenger surveys were undertaken at all railway stations in East Lothian as part of the SEStran Integrated Transport Corridor Study (SITCoS). These surveys provided important insights into the rail market in the area.
3.5.4 Table 3.1 shows the split by broad purpose of travel from each station derived from these surveys.
* National Rail Travel Survey data
3.5.5 In more detail, National Rail Travel Survey data (Scotland) found that 59% of rail trips were commuting, 11% were business and 30% were leisure.
3.6.1 There have been high levels of growth in rail travel in the study area in the last decade. In Scotland, the market is dominated by Edinburgh commuters. Berwick-upon-Tweed sees relatively low levels of commuting and business travel, although there is a substantial leisure market.
3.6.2 If these levels of growth were to resume with the economic recovery, there will be pressure on existing services in terms of capacity in the coming years. Previous studies have also shown that there are parking capacity issues at most of the stations along the line and these will be exacerbated with continuing growth. Should additional parking capacity be provided, it is likely that this would quickly be taken up by latent demand leading to further pressure on train services, ie the lack of parking may be constraining the demand for rail travel on the line.
3.6.3 This section has set the broad context for rail travel within the study area. The next chapter reports on the headline findings of the consultation exercise which was undertaken as part of this study.