Northumberland Line will reinvigorate 'forgotten parts' of county
Up to 200,000 people living in 'forgotten parts' near the planned Northumberland Line rail projects have been told to expect an economic boom when the scheme is completed.
Bosses behind the planned Northumberland Line scheme to restart passenger services between Newcastle and Ashington returned to the route for a preview of what commuters can expect when trains start running in 2024.
And they have predicted the major project could reinvigorate an area struggling to bounce back after the decline of traditional heavy industries.
“It was a really exciting day to be on the train, which is familiarising drivers with the route of the new Northumberland Line,” said Richard Wearmouth, deputy leader of Northumberland County Council.
“By 2024 it will see passengers return to once forgotten parts of south east Northumberland and it’s been amazing to see people up and down the route after decades of waiting for this.
“There will be a huge economic impact once we’re up and running and fantastic opportunities for businesses during construction.
“But it’s really during the operation of the line that we will see that transformative economic impact.”
Currently on track for completion by 2024, the Northumberland Line, previously known as the Ashington, Blyth and Tyne Line, would see the return of passenger services for the first time since 1964.
The Government has so far agreed to set aside £34m for the works, which are also set to include a series of new stations and improvements to existing ones along the route.
According to the local authority’s calculations, this could pump up to £470m into the North East economy.
Transport bosses have long advocated for greater connectivity, citing research suggesting every journey made on the Tyne and Wear Metro or rail network is worth £8.50 to the regional economy.
And county chiefs have been keen to stress they see the initiative as part of a wider regional project, not simply confined to Northumberland.
County Council leader Glen Sanderson said: “This line will serve Newcastle, Gateshead and other parts people can get to from Newcastle Central Station, so it’s actually a regional development.
“It’s a brilliant thing to be reinstating this line and opening it up to new passengers.”
The proposed service, to be delivered by Northern Trains, is to operate two trains per hour from Monday to Saturday 6am to 7.30pm, with one train per hour after 7.30pm and on Sundays.
Construction of stations is expected to start next summer, with passenger services running from early 2024.
A planned ‘gigaplant’ for Cambois, near Blyth, making batteries for electric vehicles has been hailed as a ‘honey pot’ for the North East, with the potential to lure further investors with cash to spare.
Coun Wearmouth claimed the factory would be one of many schemes attracted to the orbit of the new transport corridor.
And the appetite for Government spending to kick start growth was shared by Martin Gannon, leader of Gateshead Council and chair of the North East Joint Transport Committee.
He added: “It’s a self-evident statement of fact that if you want to create employment you need good infrastructure.
“Whether it’s the M25 or a major rail network, every example will show that where there’s investment in transport infrastructure it increases the ability of people to work and for employers to create opportunities.”