The first direct train from Middlesbrough to London for more than 30 years left a buoyant Teesside last Monday.
The service using Azuma trains and operated by LNER will run on a once daily basis from Monday to Friday running from Middlesbrough to Kings Cross, stopping at Thornaby and York. The trip will take three hours, but more importantly remove the need to travel to other parts of the region to board a direct train to the capital.
Sparklers were handed out to those waiting on the platform as Queen played out over the public address amid wag flag waving and a real sense of celebration.
The move follows on from a £34 million revamp of the town’s station and it’s hoped more improvements will be made in the future.
Middlesbrough Mayor Andy Preston explained: “Middlesbrough really is making huge strides towards an exciting and prosperous future, and this is another major milestone on that journey. We’re all about creating opportunity, jobs and aspiration for young people, and 21st century transport links like this are key to making that happen.
“This is just the start – it’s an important step, but there’s so much more to come.”
Imran Khan who runs Kashmir International Food Stores in Middlesbrough explained: “This will be of great benefit to the business community as a whole and I’m keen to use the direct service myself. Previously I had to go to Darlington, but now it’s just along the road and it’s brilliant to have a direct service to London. Everyone seems to be delighted with the new service even though there’s only one train per day, but the campaign to bring the service back has obviously been a big success. The future for the area looks brighter because of this, and for the business community here in the town it’s a boon.”
Tess Valley Mayor Ben Houchen revealed: “The work at Middlesbrough station isn’t just important for restarting a direct train service from the town to the capital, it is also critical for improving local train services so that thousands of passengers in Teesside, Darlington and Hartlepool can get the fast, frequent and better-quality train service they deserve.
Rail Minister Chris Heaton-Harris added: “This government is committed to levelling up the whole of the UK and improving rail connectivity is key in helping us to build back better and greener, while allowing everyone to experience the best places our country has to offer.
“This direct service between Middlesbrough and London will be a huge boost for the North-East, joining our Integrated Rail Plan in providing better access to jobs and opportunities, connecting families and friends, and increasing tourism.”
Andy McDonald, Labour MP for Middlesbrough, said: “I am delighted that, after nine years of campaigning since I was first elected, this new direct link from Middlesbrough to London is finally here.
“It is hugely welcome and a positive step towards much needed improved rail connectivity for the area. Being able to travel to Parliament from my hometown will make for a far more convenient commute and I am sure local travellers, both business and pleasure, will benefit from this new service.”
The new service departed Middlesbrough at 07:08 and Thornaby at 07:15, arriving at London King’s Cross via York at 10:22.
Northbound services will depart London at 15:25, stopping at York and arriving in Thornaby at 18:08 and Middlesbrough at 18:18.
David Horne, Managing Director at LNER told us: “Our new Azuma services will not only help transform the customer experience for those who travel between Middlesbrough and London but open up new economic opportunities for the area. The new services will see journey times of around three hours between London and Middlesbrough, offering more opportunities for business, tourists and international visitors wanting to travel to the Tees Valley.”