Northumberland line could reopen in one phase

The old platforms at Ashington Railway Station.The old platforms at Ashington Railway Station.
The old platforms at Ashington Railway Station.
Opening all six stations at once looks set to be the way ahead for the Northumberland Line, but it affects the major rail project’s timescales.

Also known as the Ashington, Blyth and Tyne Line, the scheme seeks to restore passenger services in the south-east of the county, connecting to Newcastle Central.

The stations would be at Ashington, Bedlington, Blyth Bebside, Newsham, Seaton Delaval and the existing Metro station at Northumberland Park.

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The proposed design uses, with the exception of a four-mile length of the East Coast Main Line, the existing freight-only line, which last carried passengers in 1964.

In the July 24 edition of Local Transport Today (LTT), a small article, Northumberland rail revival in one go?, talks about the potential for the project to be delivered in one rather than two phases.

This possibility was also raised earlier this year by the council, following the original plan being for two phases – with the stations at Seaton Delaval and Blyth Bebside to come online later than the other four.

The LTT article quotes Tobyn Hughes, the managing director of Transport North East, as saying: “The DfT (Department for Transport) has recently indicated that they may wish to see the project delivered as one phase with a half-hourly timetable from the start, rather than two phases with services ramping up over time.”

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It also refers to two dates that suggest the scheme’s timescales have slipped from what was originally hoped.

The report states that the final business case is due to be submitted to the DfT next spring and that the service could be launched in May 2024.

Previous dates provided by the council suggested that trains could be running by late 2022, before it slipped to 2023.

There was also optimism towards the start of this year that there may have been a funding announcement related to the project, which is estimated to cost £162million, in or around the time of the Budget in February.

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Asked about these latest proposed dates, a Northumberland County Council spokesman said: “We continue to make good progress on the Northumberland Line scheme.

“Ideally we would like to carry out the work in a single phase, although there are still a number of hurdles to clear before any final decisions are made.”

Last month, council leader Peter Jackson said that work to reopen the line could start ‘in a matter of months’.

Speaking at a meeting of the North East Joint Transport Committee, he said: “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.”