Good Transport Key To New Opportunities In North East

Regional transport connectivity is at the heart of the North East Mayoral campaign
James Jobson
August 20, 2023

I am lucky.  I live in a beautiful rural coastline corridor surrounded by stunning scenery, fresh air and an amazing history. I am unlucky too. I live in one of the most isolated rural areas in Europe and don’t drive because of a lifetime neurological disability.

I rely on public transport to access services that have moved away from my hometown of Berwick in the name of progress and modernisation. For instance, I travel to Morpeth and Newcastle for my banking and to Scotland for the dentist.  

Sadly, public transport is decaying faster than a rotten tooth with bus and train companies slashing already unreliable but expensive services.

A lifeline is on the way however, as we await the arrival of the new North East Metro Mayor’s office next year. The new office could make the North East the strongest devolved region in England with more funding and powers to positively influence life and work in Northumberland, Tyne and Wear and County Durham. 

One of the Mayoral front runners is the Labour Party’s Kim McGuinness, Northumbria’s current Police and Crime Commissioner. 

Kim and I chatted a short while ago and she told me that:  “we need to bring buses back into public control really quickly and not just that, but make sure they go where we need them to go and not just where the profit takes them.” 

The Tyne and Wear Metro
The Tyne and Wear Metro

That commitment was just the ticket for me, as a public controlled bus service is crucial to support the future growth and well-being of the region. 

Well, that depends on how it’s handled. 

Government public transport schemes[1] have seen bus fares on many North East routes capped at £2 with that lasting until October when they rise to £2.50 until November 2024.

That’s good news.

Less impressive is the government taking control of the loss-making East Coast Main Line after Virgin Trains East Coast (VTEC) – 90% owned by Stagecoach – ended their franchise[2].

As a traveller, tickets for upgraded LNER-branded trains cost more as cancellation and delays are also on an upward spiral.

And what about within the urban areas of the region as well?

I’m looking to further education facilities near me, but I am a writer - and engineering, and travel and tourism courses don’t float my boat.

Newcastle and its urban neighbours have plenty to offer writers wanting to fine tune their craft but away from the East Coast Main Line…what then?

Kim says: “In terms of our trains and metros, it all needs to properly join up…it means the Washington Metro extension…make sure the network works for people so you can use it wherever you are.”

She plans a manifesto built around good quality local jobs and tackling child poverty to ensure the North East is “the home of opportunity”. Connecting the people to those opportunities is key to her ambitions.

Rural communities such as those in Northumberland must not be left behind. The “home of opportunity” must have a seat at the table for those of us in the countryside and an affordable and reliable way to connect to the opportunities the region has to offer.

As much as I love Newcastle and the Tyne and Wear area, I don’t want to be forced to move there and leave my life in Berwick, just so I can make a living.

Cards on the table, I’m voting for the candidate who can best connect me to opportunities, who brings opportunities to me and who will stand up for me and my local community.