November has been a busy month for the Tyne Valley Community Rail Partnership. John Beadle, volunteer press editor for the partnership gives an insight into the activities on the north east line.
Tyne Valley remembers
In the week before the Armistice Centenary, TVCRP’s Fiona Forsythe and Northern’s Marie Addison were busy collecting in all the hand knitted poppies the various knitting groups along the line had made. The result being every station had a display of some kind to commemorate Armistice Day at all of the 14 stations served by Northern on the line. In some cases it was difficult to find a suitable place to attach the poppies, but where there is a will, there is a way. It’s pleasing to note that all the poppies survived and were not subject to theft or vandalism. All the poppies are to be taken down and re-used again next year. Is this a record, to have every station on a line decorated with poppies?
Marie and Sarah from Northern visited Wylam to talk about rail safety, looking after your local station, and also asked the children to lend a hand with the poppy manufacturing. They held a joint meeting with the Brownies, Cubs and Beavers who really took the cause to their hearts,providing Wylam with a magnificent display. The Beavers contributed by making crosses from lollipop sticks which were displayed in the flower planters.
It wasn’t just the young who were involved. The Ancient Artists, who are artists all over the age of 80 who meet in the Old Booking Hall at Haltwhistle station, painted skylarks on boards to decorate the stations. Skylarks were a symbol of hope for both sides in the First War. When the photographs appeared on Facebook one lady commented, “I enjoyed contributing but am housebound so couldn’t get to see everyone’s hard work in person – what a great display & brilliant idea, thank you for helping me contribute to this special remembrance.”
The Tyne Valley Community Rail Partnership would like to thank all the help and support which came from Pauline and Rosie at Ready, Steady, Knit in Prudhoe. The station café at Riding Mill also held two ‘knit and natter’ afternoons offering free coffee to those knitting.
Northern has made progress in establishing station adopters in all its stations on the Tyne Valley Line. Most have adopters in some form or another. Only Dunston, Blaydon and Brampton remain to find adoptors.
The first steps to finding an adopter for Blaydon came about when a meeting was held for interested parties. There was a wide range of ages, from a senior pupil at St. Thomas More School, Blaydon, many of whose pupils use the train to get to school, to Brighten Ryton where a group of retired volunteers who have taken over from the council in keeping the parks and cemeteries tidy.
Ryton used to have a station, the next one along the line from Blaydon heading west, but this closed as far back as 1954 as it was poorly located at the bottom of a steep hill. While the village expanded to the south away from the railway the trains had to compete with a frequent bus service which operated through the centre of the village. Blaydon has now become the railhead for Ryton.
In 2019, Ryton Church celebrates its 800th anniversary and there will be many visitors coming to the celebrations. Some will come by train now that the frequency of stopping trains at Blaydon has increased and it is hoped Brighten Ryton will work on the planters on the platforms and make the station more welcoming. It is hoped to establish some leaflets of walks which can incorporate Blaydon Station. Further meetings for the station adaptors are planned.
Since the meeting the Head Teacher at St. Thomas More School has given his backing to the project and the school’s art department are keen to produce work for the station.
The AGM of the Tyne Valley Rail Users Group, which is a group member of TVCRP, was also held. The speaker was Mike Paterson, Regional Director NE for Northern, who gave an interesting and informative talk. While he discussed Northern as a whole, several improvements for the Tyne Valley were mentioned.
The train service will be increased in May 2019 with three trains an hour, two to Carlisle and one to Hexham. On the return journeys they will go to Middlesbrough, Morpeth or Newcastle. The audience were asked to guess how much it costs to operate a train on the Tyne Valley route. The cost is £675 for one train!
The King Edward Bridge leading into Newcastle is becoming very congested with lots of train operators wanting to use it. Northern comes fourth in the pecking order, so delays are inevitable. The number of platforms in Newcastle said to be useable for modern longer trains will decrease and so become a real problem for the future.
The platform lengths at various stations in the Tyne Valley will be lengthened in 2019 to accommodate the newer refurbished trains heading our way. The last Pacers will go in 2019 and be replaced by 5 class 156 and 8 class 158 from Scotland. This will restore the number of trains required to run the services in the Tyne Valley. Since the delayed electrification scheme at Bolton, five trains from the Tyne Valley have been sent to Manchester and those left have had to work harder. This has placed a strain on the maintenance of the older vehicles and some have broken down. Cancellations have risen from 0.4% to 3%. The Tyne Valley line is the worst line in Northern territory for leaf fall. Hence the problems experienced by late trains within the last month.
Northern Connect is due to begin in December 2019, probably running up the Durham coast from Middlesbrough – Newcastle – Carlisle calling at principal stations. This express service will cut 12 minutes off the present timetable.
All very positive, we await developments with interest.