North of Tyne leaders have welcomed a £34 million investment for The Northumberland Line.
The Northumberland Line, which ran between Newcastle-Upon-Tyne and Ashington, closed to passengers in 1964 as part of the Beeching cuts.
The £34m Department of Transport investment will fund preparatory works, including land acquisition, detailed design work and early site works.
Plans for the project include new stations at Ashington, Bedlington, Blyth Bebside, Newsham, Seaton Delaval and Northumberland Park, in North Tyneside, as well as upgrades to the track and changes to level crossings where bridges or underpasses may need to be built.
Announced today (Sat Jan 23) by Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, the investment is part of a £794m package to build back better from the Covid-19 pandemic and level up transport infrastructure.
North of Tyne Mayor Jamie Driscoll said: “This is great news – and it will make a real difference to people’s lives.
“Colleagues in Northumberland have been working on this for years so I hope they feel justly proud.
“Once the line is fully open people will be able to get from Ashington, Bedlington and Blyth into North Tyneside and Newcastle, and join the Metro system. Not many schemes reflect so perfectly what can happen when we work together across the North of Tyne.”
Deputy Mayor of the North of Tyne Combined Authority and Portfolio Holder for Housing and Land Norma Redfearn CBE, who is North Tyneside’s Elected Mayor, said: “The plan to reopen the Northumberland Line is a bold and imaginative concept that will bring about many benefits for our region, helping to drive economic growth through better connections across three local authority boundaries.
“The central Government funding is a major milestone and I look forward to seeing the plans continue to take shape.”
Cllr Glen Sanderson, Northumberland County Council Leader and NTCA Cabinet Member for Place and Productivity, said: “This is absolutely fantastic news and means we can now finalise our plans to deliver this transformational project for both Northumberland and the wider region.
“Along with our partners we’ve done so much work to get the scheme to this stage and the Government is clearly convinced this is a project that needs to happen.
“With trains running through our county into the heart of Newcastle every half hour this will provide a massive boost to the county – in terms of opening education, housing and investment.
“It will also have a positive long-term environmental impact, helping with the move away from cars to greater public transport use and cutting congestion in bottleneck areas. We’ve had regular meetings with Government who’ve been extremely supportive but now this funding’s been agreed we can really get going over the next few months.
“We will continue to work with DfT and Network Rail in advance of submitting the full business case in the autumn for release of the final tranche of funding.”
Cllr Nick Forbes, Leader of Newcastle City Council and North of Tyne Cabinet member for Business Competitiveness, said: “Improved transport links that connect communities and enable people to access jobs, training, and leisure opportunities, will make our area an even more attractive place to live and work.
“As we seek to address the major health and environmental threats from air pollution and carbon emissions it is vital that we develop transport networks that offer people real and convenient alternatives to driving. Bringing back passengers services on the Newcastle – Northumberland Line will help us to reduce many commuter car journeys, which is better for everyone.
“Importantly, it will also help to encourage major employers to consider setting up in our city and the wider region, which brings with it additional economic benefits, employment and training opportunities.
“The planned reopening of the Newcastle – Northumberland Line also highlights the need for additional investment in Newcastle Central Station to ensure this major regional transport hub is modern, fit for purpose and can meet demand as we see a growth in rail travel. We will continue to make representation to government to secure this much-needed investment in our transport infrastructure.”
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: “Restoring railways helps put communities back on the map and this investment forms part of our nationwide effort to build back vital connections and unlock access to jobs, education and housing.
“Returning these routes to their former glory, and progressing work to reopen even more lines and stations, shows our commitment to levelling up journeys across the country as we build back better from the pandemic.”
The Transport Secretary has also today called on local authorities, MPs and community groups to submit bids for a share of the third and final round of the Department for Transport’s ‘Ideas Fund’, designed to encourage proposals to reopen railway lines, services and stations.
The latest round of the ‘Ideas Fund’ will run until 5 March 2021, with successful bids due to be announced later this summer.