Ambitious plans to reintroduce the rail passenger service between Ashington and Tyneside have taken a further step forward.
Northumberland County Council, working in partnership with Network Rail, has initiated a detailed feasibility study into the Ashington, Blyth and Tyne Line scheme which will establish what is needed to bring the proposed rail link up to national standards and provide an estimate of the overall cost.
Through consultation work the council has already established that to make the scheme attractive to potential users and support regeneration it will need to run trains seven days a week, twice an hour at peak times between Ashington and central Newcastle in just over 30 minutes.
The link would need to connect towns in south east Northumberland with the Tyne and Wear Metro system and on to Newcastle city centre through a number of refurbished or new stations providing safe and secure waiting facilities, car parking and connections with local bus services, the cycle network and walking routes.
The council has committed around £5m for detailed development work to be carried out on the scheme, with this latest phase costing around £850,000.
Called a ‘GRIP 2 Feasibility Study’, the Network Rail study will focus on establishing route capacity for the extra services given the existing/planned freight operation on this stretch of line and the East Coast Main Line; assessing the condition of the existing track and the work needed to upgrade the network and accessing the condition of the existing signalling and control systems and any necessary changes.
It will also assess the suitability of proposed station locations and the infrastructure improvements needed on a station by station basis to meet passenger requirements; and assess the work and changes in operating procedures necessary to ensure the safe operation of level crossings on the route.
Council leader Grant Davey addedd: “It is a long-held ambition of this council to reintroduce a modern passenger service between south east Northumberland and Tyneside and I’m delighted the North East Combined Authority also supports this initiative.
“We see Ashington Blyth and Tyne as a Flagship project for Northumberland and this new study will tell us exactly what will need to be done to deliver the scheme and at what cost.”
Stephen Hind, route enhancements manager for Network Rail said: “We are delighted to be working with the council on this exciting project.
“Rail is a massive success story and demand for services continues to grow across the north.
“This study will help to us establish what would need to be done to allow services to resume on this line.”
The GRIP 2 study is likely to be completed by summer 2016.