MINISTERS have been urged to put the brakes on a controversial rail overhaul.

North-East transport chiefs have warned the region faces a ‘transport disaster’ if the plans to increase services between Newcastle and London go ahead. If approved, more trains and faster journeys between the two cities would be introduced at the expense of other stations in the region.

The ‘London-centric’ proposals for the East Coast Mainline (ECM) have been slammed by North of Tyne mayor Jamie Driscoll, who warned they could ‘destroy connectivity’ between northern England’s towns and cities. He said: “I don’t think I’m the only person that thinks they’re living in a Kafka novel, where we have this strange conflation of rules that has led us to this situation that everybody thinks is a bad situation.

“The role of politicians in these times to say, look, the rules may have got us here, but the rules are wrong and they’ve produced an intended consequence.

“I’d like to put forward a little proposal that the timetable changes are put on hold and that a task force is set up by the Department for Transport led by someone independent.

“That the task force examines the constraints, puts forward options to resolve them, both short-term and long-term, works out the best optimum solution and then puts forward a plan to introduce the timetable changes slowly and aligned to growth and capacity.”

Driscoll was speaking a meeting of the Transport for the North’s Rail North Committee.

An eight-week public consultation on the timetable changes proposed by rail operator LNER started earlier this month (June 11).

In Northumberland, Berwick and Morpeth would take the biggest hit under the current version of the plans, although Alnmouth would see a slight increase in the number of trains using it.

“The East Coast mainline consultation directly affects people in the North-East and Yorkshire, but actually it affects all the north of England,” said panel chairman Liam Robinson of the Liverpool City Region authority.

He added: “I’m very concerned that actually this is all about putting a little bit more capacity south of Peterborough to support commuting journeys into London.”