A campaign to have new direct trains between south-east Northumberland and central Tyneside in just over four years has received a major boost.
Restarting frequent, seven-day services to Newcastle on the Ashington, Blyth and Tyne (ABT) railway line is feasible, according to Network Rail bosses in a new report.
There would be several new or rebuilt stations along the route – linking towns to key areas of employment, training and leisure attractions as well as providing transport links across the wider region and the UK.
Rail groups and Northumberland County Council are keen to see it happen. Reintroducing passenger services to the current freight line could boost the local economy by up to £70million, with more than 380,000 people estimated to be using it every year by 2034 according to a report to the authority’s economic growth and strategic transport overview and scrutiny committee this month.
The line would connect to the existing Metro system and include secure waiting facilities, parking and connections to cycling and walking routes.
The report was welcomed by council leader Grant Davey, who said: “I’m on record as saying it should be ‘full steam ahead’ for devolution to benefit Northumberland, and this ABT line is crucial to future jobs and growth across the whole county.
“Although a lot more work needs to be done before trains are rolling again, it’s great that Network Rail has given the green light to the latest stage of planning this flagship scheme.
“The ABT line would provide numerous benefits for the county and wider region, as well as being an extra incentive for employers to relocate here, and it would make getting around so much easier for residents.
“We have already received significant support for the project, regionally and nationally, and I pressed for the Government to include financial support for it in any devolution deal.”
Network Rail estimates that the line will cost around £195million and the county council has so far committed £5million for detailed development work on the project, including £620,000 on the latest phase known as GRIP (Governance for Railway Investment Projects) 2.