Bedlington 'relegated to the back burner' with Northumberland Line station delay, councillor claims

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A Bedlington councillor has claimed the town’s residents are treated like second class citizens after the county council announced the Northumberland Line will open before all the stations are finished.

Passenger services will begin on the railway this summer but only half of the six new stations will be in operation.

Stations at Blyth Bebside, Bedlington and Northumberland Park will open later than those at Seaton Delaval, Ashington and Newsham. The exact timescale for the remaining stations is currently unknown, but is expected to be in 2025.

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The delays have been blamed on a number of issues, including historic mine workings, contamination and inflationary pressures. However, independent councillor Malcolm Robinson, who represents the Bedlington West ward, called the setback a “kick in the teeth” for the town.

Not all stations on the Northumberland Line will be operational when services begin. (Photo by Northern)Not all stations on the Northumberland Line will be operational when services begin. (Photo by Northern)
Not all stations on the Northumberland Line will be operational when services begin. (Photo by Northern)

He said: “It is just another example of Bedlington being left behind. It is plain as the nose on your face that we are treated as second-class citizens. This happens time and time again.

“We are going to have to sit there and watch the trains go past. That is the real kick in the teeth. It is insult to injury.

“It seems to me that everywhere else gets the push that it needs, where we are relegated to the back burner.

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"Bedlington station is already there. We already had a platform. I would think it was the minimum amount of work. It defies logic.”

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Northumberland Line will have 'phased' opening before all stations are ready

The council has said the new, phased approach will allow for services to start at the “earliest possible opportunity.”

However, a “great deal” of work still needs to be completed such as the new signalling system, with “continued good progress” over winter and spring “critical” to getting services running again.

Ian Lavery, the Labour MP for Wansbeck, said: “While the alarms were first raised at the end of last year, getting confirmation that the stations at Bedlington and Bebside will not be part of the initial opening is still shocking.

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"Local people deserve to understand why their stations are behind schedule, who made the decision to proceed in this way and when trains will actually be available to them. It is no wonder that people are so angry about this and feel they have been left behind.”

Plessey ward councillor Jeff Reid, the leader of the council’s Liberal Democrat group, said: “These things always overrun. I am disappointed but not surprised.

“I have never thought that it is going to be the economic driver that all the politicians seem to think it is going to be, but I am happy to be proven wrong. Now, we will have to wait until 2025 to see.”

Cllr Reid also felt it was “unlikely” that people from the north of the town would stop using their cars and buses to commute and use the station at Newsham.

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The return of passenger rail services by summer marks a u-turn on comments made by council leader Glen Sanderson just last week. Speaking at a meeting of the Ashington and Blyth Local Area Council last Wednesday, Cllr Sanderson said trains would be unlikely to be running until the end of this year.

Speaking this week, Cllr Sanderson said: “We understand there may be some disappointment by adopting this phased approach and thank people for their patience while this critical work continues. Every single person involved with the Northumberland Line is working hard to deliver this fantastic scheme but a lot of hard work still lies ahead.

“As with any project under construction, challenges and issues have arisen, but we can’t let that overshadow the fact that the service will be up and running this year or the benefits that will bring. At the same time it’s crucial we get the Northumberland Line open and allow people to start making use of the line as soon as possible.”

Ian Levy, the MP for Blyth Valley, said: "Bringing back passenger services to south east Northumberland after decades with no action is my proudest achievement as an MP.

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"It is disappointing but perfectly understandable that it is not all opening at once, but after all of the disappointments of the past a slightly longer wait will be well worth it.

"This project is a game changer for people wanting to access jobs on Tyneside and is great for the environment.”