Northumberland County Council has welcomed a new Government announcement in relation to bringing back rail passenger services throughout south east Northumberland.
And Blyth Valley MP Ronnie Campbell has raised the issue in Parliament – calling for progress to be made as quickly as possible.
The next stage of the line proposal for the 20-mile route between Ashington and Newcastle city centre, called Grip 3, involves assessing and selecting the most appropriate options that meet the council’s requirements and establishes the scheme can be delivered at the right cost.
Transport Secretary Chris Grayling’s new rail strategy could see the re-opening of some passenger lines that were closed in the 1960s.
And the Department for Transport has now said the county line is among proposals across the country ‘currently being looked at and candidates for further consideration’.
County council leader Peter Jackson has committed to re-introducing direct trains between south east Northumberland and Newcastle.
He said: “We have always supported this ambitious proposal to help secure future jobs and growth across the whole county.
“This is positive news from central Government and reaffirms its support to work with us on this flagship project.
“While there is still some way to go until passenger trains are running again, a great deal of work is happening behind the scenes that has our full support.”
It is estimated that re-introducing passenger services to the current freight line could boost the local economy by up to £70million – with more than 380,000 people using the line every year by 2034.
Work towards starting Grip 3 is being progressed and a report will be prepared for councillors to discuss in the coming weeks.
During a Parliamentary debate last week, Mr Campbell asked Mr Grayling the following: “I have been campaigning for 30 years to re-open the Blyth and Ashington line.
“Now that it’s on the cards, will the Secretary of State tell me when it will happen, so that I can tell my constituents?
“I do not want to have to wait another 30 years, because I will be dead.”
Mr Grayling said: “There is real short-term potential to re-open that route. I’m not going to put a date on it today, but it makes a lot of sense to integrate it with the Newcastle-upon-Tyne Metro.
“We will push the project forward with feasibility and development plans.”