Call for government to invest now and future proof the ECML

  • One third of the UK population lives within 20 minutes of an East Coast Main Line station accounting for 47% of the UK’s economic output
  • Research shows that the line is vulnerable to disruption, costing the UK economy £46 million in 2018
  • Investment in the existing line could deliver over £11 billion of wider economic benefits

Invest East Coast Rail is calling on the UK and Scottish governments to invest in the East Coast Main Line, after research conducted on their behalf found that economies served by the line could see over £11 billion of wider economic benefits as part of a coherent package of rail schemes, including the full delivery of HS2.

Over 500 miles long the line is a key strategic rail route linking London with key cities and towns in the East Midlands, Yorkshire and the Humber, the North East of England, and the East and North of Scotland. The line also provides important links to international gateways and ports. However, constraints on the line can lead to significant disruption and in 2018, 12 major incidents occurred costing the UK economy £46 million.

Localised and smaller incidents can also cause significant disruption across the rail network but if the number of delays on the line over 10 minutes were halved, this would deliver an additional £62.8 million per annum to the wider economy.

Investing in the line now to improve its performance will not only deliver economic benefits across the country but also ensure the line is ready for the arrival of new infrastructure projects including HS2, Northern Powerhouse Rail, Midlands Engine, and East West Rail.

Members of Invest East Coast Rail are calling on the government to commit to funding to future proof the East Coast Main Line and to develop a clear long-term investment plan for the line to ensure the route is ready to benefit from these future rail projects.

Councillor Martin Gannon, Leader of Gateshead Council and Chair of the North East Joint Transport Committee, said:

“It’s good that partners up and down the East Coast Main Line have come together to press for investment, and we are also working with Transport for the North to make sure their plans are aligned as well.

“It’s high time that we saw a clear commitment from the government on upgrading the East Coast Main Line in the North East. The existing line is already slow, unreliable, and over-capacity for our needs now, let alone for the future. With the government set to publish an ‘Integrated Rail Plan’ early next year, it is absolutely essential that upgrading the East Coast Main Line in the North East is at the centre of the plan.

“We are strong supporters of both the HS2 Eastern Leg and Northern Powerhouse Rail, but we want to make it very clear that both projects will only deliver meaningful economic benefit to the North East if the government also commits to a major upgrade of the East Coast Main Line, including the reopening of the Leamside Line in full.

“Our region needs to be part of the country’s high speed rail revolution as we look towards the future. This is a key part of our North East Transport Plan which has just went out to public consultation.”

Cllr Keith Aspden, Chair of Invest East Coast Rail and Leader of York City Council, said:

“The East Coast Main Line is one of the UK’s strategic rail routes, but it has suffered from underinvestment and as a result is now struggling with demand.

“Without long-term funding to help tackle issues of capacity and resilience, the line will remain increasingly vulnerable to major disruptions which is why we are calling on the UK and Scottish governments to invest in the line now to ensure it is ready for new rail infrastructure projects, including HS2.

“This is all the more crucial considering the key role the line will play as an enabler to economic growth and recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Invest East Coast Rail is backed by a cross-party group of local councils, combined authorities and Scottish Regional Transport Partnerships from across the area served by the East Coast Main Line. Formally known as the Consortium of East Coast Mainline Authorities (ECMA).

A copy of the research can be found at

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