Work could start soon on reopening rail line

Work to reopen the former Northumberland Line could start ‘in a matter of months’, according to regional leaders.

Friday, 24th July 2020, 10:00 am
The old platforms at Ashington Railway Station.
The old platforms at Ashington Railway Station.

Plans are currently being worked on to resume passenger services between Newcastle and Ashington, with the project expected to cost about £162million.

And although transport bosses are still waiting for a decision on more government funding for the scheme, it is hoped construction could begin soon.

“Now is an opportunity for us as a region to actually make this ripe for significant investment,” said Peter Jackson, the leader of Northumberland County Council.

“The Northumberland Line would be transformative to the whole area and our county, but it’s also a regional project and I’m very proud it’s actually getting nearer and nearer to being a reality.

“We could have spades in the ground in a matter of months on that one.

“What’s coming together is a coherent package going to the government and hopefully we will be successful.”

Jackson was speaking at a meeting of the North East Joint Transport Committee (JTC), which was held by videolink and broadcast via YouTube.

As well as the Northumberland Line, transport chiefs in the region are also hoping to secure backing to reopen the former Leamside Line, which could pave the way for an extension of the Tyne and Wear Metro, and to upgrade the East Coast Mainline (ECM) between London and Newcastle.

Leaders have previously said they hope work to the Northumberland Line could be completed by 2023, with the latest report for JTC suggesting it could be fully ‘operational’ by mid-2024.

“There’s nothing as persuasive as an idea whose time has come and that is the feeling I have,” said Martin Gannon, leader of Gateshead Council and chairman of the JTC.

“It is persuasive and so overwhelmingly straightforward.

“The Northumberland Line is incredibly important, as is the ECM and the Leamside Line, especially at this time, a time when we need to kickstart the regional economy.

“This is relatively small scale investment to unlock potentially major economic growth and I think the time has come.”

A report on how a reopened Northumberland Line could work is expected to be ready in September.