NEWS that rail operator Grand Central will provide direct services between Hartlepool and London for another decade has been widely welcomed as a big economic boost.
Regulators approved an application by the train company to continue to run services between Sunderland and London King’s Cross until 2026.
Yesterday’s announcement was welcomed by business and regeneration chiefs, as well as a passenger group and Hartlepool MP Iain Wright.
With the town set to get even bigger over the next few years – with applications for thousands more homes in the pipeline they said good links to London are essential to help the town flourish.
Hartlepool Borough Council’s Vision aims campaign to breathe new life and jobs into the town.
Councillor Robbie Payne, chairman of the council’s regeneration committee, said: “I’m delighted. A lot of towns want a direct rail link to London and we are delighted to be one of them.
“With the Hartlepool Vision project, we want visitors coming to Hartlepool and good rail access is one of the main obstacles that has been overcome.”
MP Iain Wright uses the London service regularly to get to Parliament.
He said: “Having a direct link between Hartlepool and London is a big boost for the town. It allows people to see friends and family, but equally important is it brings economic activity to the town.
“I welcome the 10 year extension and hopefully we will see Arriva, who own Grand Central, invest in things like rolling stock.”
Grand Central launched Hartlepool’s first daily connection to London at the end of 2007.
Managing director Richard McClean said: “For many of the towns on our routes we operate the only direct service to London, so this extension is a big coup for those communities and local businesses as well, who can continue to make connections to the capital.
“Our new access rights give us the opportunity to make significant investment in the rolling stock to improve reliability.
“We’ll also work with stations along our route to improve facilities like car parks.”
The rail passenger group Coastliners North East also welcomed the extension.
Committee member Martin Green said: “It is a very popular service and usage has increased.
“It gives us that connectivity that is important in encouraging people this is a good place to be, whether to live or carry out business.”
And business consultant Colin Griffiths, of Hartlepool’s Stranton Business Centre, said: “A lot of business people in Hartlepool rely on a good, fast service to London.
“It is an important link for us and to know we have got that service for another 10 years is excellent news for the business community in Hartlepool whether small or large.”