Shapps’ pledge over rail line in county
When asked about bringing back passenger trains between Ashington and Newcastle during his visit to Northumberland, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said that the Government “will get this line re-opened”.
Last June, it was agreed the scheme was to be included in the North East’s £377million bid for funding from Whitehall’s £1.28billion Transforming Cities Fund (TCF), with £99million earmarked for the rail line.
A phased approach is being proposed, with four new stations at Ashington, Bedlington, Newsham and Northumberland Park (North Tyneside) to be built in the first phase.
Stations at Seaton Delaval and Blyth Bebside would come on line over the following two years.
Labour’s concern is that the second phase is reliant on additional funding being found, with the overall project estimated to cost £190million, while claiming that its proposed first phase included Bebside, Seaton Delaval and Woodhorn.
But the Conservative county council administration says it looks set to deliver on this project ‘after three decades of Labour failure’.
Speaking at the Newsham South Signal Box on Monday, Mr Shapps also said: “The reason to come here is to kick-off the process and tell my officials I want this done.
“We have a newly elected MP there (Blyth Valley) in Ian Levy who has been fighting for this and has convinced us it is a good idea.
“I don’t want to give an exact timetable without knowing the answer, but we have the money now to put to it so it won’t be long before I am giving you a timetable.”
Northumberland County Council leader Peter Jackson, who joined Mr Shapps at the Newsham South Signal Box, said he expects the line to re-open within three years.
He added: “There is no doubt now that this will happen. It was mentioned as a major Government priority during the election campaign by none other than the Prime Minister.
“And within days of the general election result, we have a senior cabinet minister in the region to look at the line.
“There is no doubting the Government’s commitment to this.”
Labour group leader Susan Dungworth said on Tuesday: “We need firm guarantees, not warm words from the Transport Secretary.
“The Northumberland Line project was launched under Labour to better connect south east Northumberland and provide an efficient link to Newcastle.
“The Tories need to stop dithering and fund the train line, in full, with all the stations included.”