Track improvements start on Northumberland Line
Work is underway to reintroduce a regular rail passenger service between Ashington and Newcastle.
Network Rail carried out work to renew a section of track in Newsham in preparation to reopen the Northumberland line.
This milestone marks the completion of the first physical piece of work on the project to reintroduce a regular rail passenger service after the line was closed to passengers in 1964 as part of the Beeching cuts.
The essential work involved renewing 600 yards of rails and componentry, which had been used exclusively by freight trains for many years.
Working in partnership with Northumberland County Council, Northern and the Department for Transport, the transformational project aims to stimulate and support economic growth, regeneration and community development in Northumberland and the surrounding regions.
The project will upgrade 18 miles of track and signalling, open six new stations and three new footbridges ready to open by 2024.
David Underwood, Senior Programme Manager for Network Rail’s North and East route, said: “It’s amazing to see work to reopen the Northumberland line finally begin.
"This is a promising first step in an ambitious project which will revitalise rail in the area and see regular passenger services return.
“Once complete, the new line will provide the people of Northumberland with access to new opportunities and connect the communities along the line.
"Throughout the project, we’re planning to use local labour and engage with local businesses where possible.”
Northumberland County Council Deputy Leader, Coun Richard Wearmouth, said: “It is a great milestone to finally see work to return passenger services physically happening on the line.
“While there’s so much going on behind the scenes, the progress feels more tangible when you can actually see it on the ground and this is an exciting time for everyone involved.
“We’re looking forward to the scheme continuing at pace as we work towards services starting by 2024.”
Blyth Valley MP, Ian Levy, said: “This is a very significant step with Government funding being used to make the first improvements to the Northumberland Line.
"It is very much a partnership between the County Council, the Government and Network Rail to once again provide a passenger rail service to the residents of Blyth and Seaton Valley.”