Support grows for re-opening Northumberland train line

Campaigners are calling on the community to get behind plans to restore passenger rail services between Newcastle and Ashington.

Tuesday, 15th October 2019, 11:00 am
Updated Friday, 18th October 2019, 2:03 pm
SENRUG’s special charter train in 2008 crossing the River Wansbeck. Picture by Graham Galbraith.
SENRUG’s special charter train in 2008 crossing the River Wansbeck. Picture by Graham Galbraith.

SENRUG, the group that campaigns for better rail services in South East and East Northumberland, is supporting the proposals by Northumberland County Council.

Although passenger trains were withdrawn in 1964, the line remains in use as it carries freight trains to and from the power station at Lynemouth.

Dennis Fancett, SENRUG chair, said: “We have been campaigning for passenger trains to be re-instated since 2005.

“We are fortunate that our campaign has been fully supported by each of the Lib-Dem, Labour and now Conservative administrations whilst they have been in power at County Hall.

“Nevertheless, the process to re-open a passenger train service is longwinded and complex – itself an issue that needs to be looked at – but now we have reached the position where there is a plan being submitted to the government and a strong chance we could see passenger services running again by late 2022 or 2023.

“We should grab this opportunity to make a real difference to our local economy, and have some rail investment in the North East rather than just London schemes.”

He added: “That doesn’t mean to say we are in agreement with the Council on every detail.

““We would have liked more to be included in Phase 1 – as indeed would everyone – including the County Council themselves.

“And we have comments on some of the station designs which we are feeding back, though we all need to recognise that simply re-instating what used to exist doesn’t work in all cases since the original station layouts no longer meet Network Rail’s current quality and safety standards.

“Nevertheless, our conclusion is that the current phased plan is a pragmatic way of getting something actually delivered.

“A lot of hard work has gone in to getting us this far and I particularly commend the staff at the County Council who are working very hard to meet a number of deadlines.

“We can also re-assure the community that once Phase 1 is completed, SENRUG won’t rest on its laurels but will continue to campaign not just for those stations not included in the initial phase, but for further extensions such as Ashington to Woodhorn and Newbiggin, Newsham to Blyth Town Centre, Bedlington to Choppington and Morpeth, and the link from Ashington to Alnmouth via Butterwell on the East Coast Main Line.

“But after 14 years of campaigning, this is an opportunity to get something, and we are supporting it.

“It’s a desperately needed scheme, and finally we have a strong chance of seeing it signed off and passenger trains running once again.”

Re-opening the rail line to Ashington is just one of SENRUG’s campaigns. To find out the other things the group wants to achieve, or to join up, go to www.senrug.co.uk