Consultation launched on new Northumberland Line to Newcastle

Residents are being given the chance to have their say on plans for a passenger rail service linking towns in south-east Northumberland with Newcastle city centre.

Wednesday, 11th September 2019, 15:38 pm
Updated Wednesday, 11th September 2019, 15:47 pm
A map of the proposed Northumberland rail line.

The new Northumberland Line – formerly dubbed the Ashington, Blyth and Tyne line – could be running by late 2022 and mean journeys between Ashington and Newcastle of just over half-an-hour.

In June, it was agreed that the scheme was to be included in the North East’s £377million bid for funding from the Government’s £1.28billion Transforming Cities Fund (TCF), with £99million earmarked for the rail line.

As previously reported, a phased approach is being proposed, with four new stations at Ashington, Bedlington, Newsham and Northumberland Park (North Tyneside) to be built in the first phase to provide an hourly (high peak half-hourly) service. The remaining stations at Seaton Delaval and Blyth Bebside would come on line over the following two years.

Council leader Peter Jackson said: “The reintroduction of passenger services on this 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, as well as being recognised as one of regional importance in the Government’s Transport for the North proposals.

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“While work is progressing well on our outline strategic business case, we want to hear what potential users of this new service think of the scheme and also get a firm idea of their priorities and what they’d use the trains for.”

A series of public drop-in events have been taking place across the towns in question this month, with further events still to come in Seaton Delaval (Wednesday, September 18, in the community centre on Elsdon Avenue from 3pm to 7pm) and Shiremoor, North Tyneside (Monday, September 16, in St Mark’s Church Hall from 3pm to 7pm).

All of the information is also available online – https://tinyurl.com/y2jwq7on – and residents can share their views by responding to a survey here – https://tinyurl.com/y6cqb5ds

Views so far

At one of the Ashington events, Andrew Carmichael, from Widdrington and a member of SENRUG (South East Northumberland Rail User Group), said: “It looks good.

“It will help to reduce congestion on the Spine Road and help people to move to a greener form of transport.

“It looks like it’s going to happen, that’s my opinion. It’s taken a lot of years, but it’s going forward now.

“The connection to the Northumberland Park metro station will be massively important. That will really help to make it happen.”

Ashington resident David Marlow is ‘very supportive’ of the scheme, but said: “Since the line closed to passenger services, there have been huge housing developments on the south side of Ashington at North Seaton.

“There used to be a station by JT Dove builders and a platform in there would be of huge benefit, because all that housing is in walking distance.”

Mr Marlow thought the station in Ashington, virtually where it was in the past, made sense, but questioned whether the car park would be big enough if the service frequency was increased to half-hourly.

He added: “The big drawback is none of the stations are going to be manned and using ticket machines is not everyone’s favourite activity. If it were possible to have tickets for sale on the trains themselves, that would deal with that.”

Meanwhile, at one of the Blyth drop-ins, Mike Stead, who lives at Bebside, said: “It’s a brilliant idea, it will be good for the local community. However, as in the past, Northumberland County Council haven’t put notices through doors and informed us of the meetings.

“If it goes ahead, it will be fantastic. There’s so many new housing estates that we have to do something about the transport situation because the roads are chock-a-block.”

In relation to the proposals for the stations, he added: “I was impressed with the detail and the access roads aren’t going to impinge on anything else, although parking may be a problem.”