Hopes for Northumberland Line funding announcement in autumn

Transport bosses are hopeful of a Government funding announcement for the Northumberland Line rail project later in the autumn.

By Ben O'Connell
Tuesday, 15th September 2020, 7:01 pm
A map of the proposed Northumberland Line.
A map of the proposed Northumberland Line.

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.”

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.”

Cllr Martin Gannon, the JTC chairman, added: “It’s incredibly important for the whole region, particularly south-east Northumberland.

“Any further support by the wider region to Northumberland County Council in taking the scheme forward will be enthusiastically given. It’s part of our long-term ambition, not just for south-east Northumberland or Northumberland, but the wider region, extending public transport provision as part of an integrated and comprehensive travel service to our population.”

Northumberland’s acting council leader Glen Sanderson described the project as ‘a dream come true for a lot of us’, while thanking the committee for its support.

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