Stuart McNaughton, the officer leading on the project at Northumberland County Council, told the North East Joint Transport Committee (JTC) that work had been taking place with the Department for Transport (DfT) over the summer on an accelerated business-case process.
An updated business case for the project is now due to be submitted on Friday, October 2, 2020 to be followed by a funding announcement, the meeting on Tuesday, September 15, was told.
Mr McNaughton added: “The DfT has confirmed we should assume a single-phase delivery approach which would enable two trains an hour from day one of operation. Previously we have been looking at a phased approach to take account of funding opportunities at that time.”
Also known as the Ashington, Blyth and Tyne Line, the scheme, which was previously estimated to cost £162million, seeks to restore passenger services in the south-east of the county, connecting to Newcastle Central.
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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.
Mr McNaughton’s update also explained that it is hoped that there will be through ticketing to and from the Metro system as well as local bus services where possible, while fare levels on the Northumberland Line should be aligned with the zonal fare structure already used by Metro operator Nexus.
The report noted that this would ‘drive demand and thus achieve the maximum possible economic benefit from the scheme’.
The JTC agreed formally to support the scheme so that Northumberland County Council can assure the Government through its business case that the project is backed on a regional basis.
North of Tyne Mayor Jamie Driscoll said: “It’s a very, very important scheme. Northumberland has my full support in this, not just moral support but very active support, speaking to Secretaries of State, Transport Ministers, the National Infrastructure Commission, a whole list of people, because this is part of what we need to be levelling up.
“Rail ambitions both north and south of the Tyne benefit all of us.”