Passenger services could boost the local economy by £70m
Passenger services could boost the local economy by £70m
Richard Bell

Boost for plan to reintroduce passenger trains on Northumberland freight line

A project to reestablish passenger rail services across southeast Northumberland is set for a further £3.5m investment.

The county council is looking to reintroduce direct trains between Ashington and Newcastle city centre, as thousands of people travel the 20-mile route every day.

The authority believes adding passenger services to the area’s freight line could boost the local economy by £70m and support as many as 800,000 return journeys annually by 2038.

An outline business case and proposal for detail design is due for submission by the end of the year, with the hope of getting passenger services underway in 2022.

Peter Jackson, Leader of Northumberland County Council, said: “We have always supported this ambitious proposal to help secure future jobs and growth across the whole county.

“The reintroduction of passenger services on the existing freight only line has been an aspiration of the county council for many years and fits with key local and regional policy in terms of promoting economic growth across southeast Northumberland.”

He added: “The feasibility work we commissioned is nearing completion and the emerging strategic outline business case indicates there is a positive benefit.”

Speaking further, Cllr Jackson said it is important for the authority to “maintain momentum” in developing the scheme.

He said the next stage of the plan will, in addition to design work and business case refinement, will include a detailed highways impact assessment and engineering and ecology works.

He continued: “I’m particularly pleased the scheme is now being recognised as one of regional importance in the Government’s Transport for the North proposals.

“I am determined as Leader of the council to make the case for continued investment in our great county.”

Cllr Richard Wearmouth, Cabinet Member for Economic Regeneration, added: “Commuters and shoppers could speed between Ashington and the heart of Newcastle in as little as 35 minutes, with several new or rebuilt stations along the route linking towns to key areas of employment, training and leisure attractions as well as providing transport links across the wider region and the UK.

“By its very nature this is an extremely ambitious long-term project and it’s important residents know a lot of work is going on behind the scenes to make this happen.

“And while there is still much work to be done to make the case for investment this is a significant step down that road.”

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