AN ambitious scheme to re-open the disused Alnmouth Station to Alnwick railway line has reached an ‘important milestone’, which could see trains operating later this year.
The exciting project took the huge step forward yesterday when the Aln Valley Railway Trust (AVRT) and the Northumberland Estates signed the lease which will allow the first construction elements of the railway to begin almost immediately.
It is hoped that there will be some limited running of short trains by the end of this summer and visitors will be able to come to the site to see the construction progress.
AVRT chairman Martin Robinson said: “We are absolutely delighted to have reached this important milestone in the restoration of the railway.
“Everybody involved has worked tremendously hard to achieve this, but there is still a huge amount of work still to done, especially if we are to hit our target dates.
“Our first works contract has already let to a local Alnwick firm, and we will be going to tender on the second contract shortly, thereby helping the local economy in these difficult times.
“However, we need more volunteers for everything.
“Now that we will be able to demonstrate progress on the ground tangibly we hope that as many people as possible will rally round to help get this fantastic project off the ground.
“All offers of help will be very welcome.
“The Aln Valley Railway is very conscious of its ability to add to the continuing well-being of Alnwick and north Northumberland, and we will do our utmost to contribute.
“I pay tribute and offer grateful thanks to the Northumberland Estates for their continuing help, and the Coast and Lowlands Leader project for grant-aid without which the project could not have progressed.”
Access to the original Alnwick station is no longer possible so a new station will be built at a site known as Lloyd’s Field close to the A1 and adjacent to both the original line and the Lionheart Enterprise Park, on the outskirts of the town.
A curved track will link this station to the former alignment allowing trains to reach a terminus next to the East Coast main line at Alnmouth station.
This, however, lies in the future.
Initial works will concentrate on the new operating base and station site, which will be called Alnwick (Lionheart).
Access to the station site will be via Ash Close on the Lionheart Enterprise Park.
Local contractors D Purvis will be starting on the necessary roadworks at once.
Over the winter AVR members carried out vital remedial work on the former trackbed which has involved improvement to the drainage and the cutting back of vegetation.
A special license was granted by the Northumberland Estates for this and for the digging of some test pits to determine the underlying ground conditions.
At Wooler, considerable progress has been made with the repair and refurbishment of rolling stock, while at Longhoughton, track panels are being assembled for transport to Lionheart as soon as vehicle access is possible.
Some track panels, purchased from Network Rail, and other rail items donated by the National Railway Museum at York, will move north shortly.
Potential volunteers or donors should contact the Aln Valley Railway’s Secretary, Mark Hayton, via firstname.lastname@example.org or via the railway’s website at www.alnvalleyrailway.co.uk