At a meeting of the authority’s cabinet on Tuesday, February 11, members are expected to sign off on £9.92million for the detailed design phase, involving the transfer of £8.5million from reserves.
This time last year, the cabinet approved £3.5million to develop the proposals, which would connect Ashington, Bedlington, Blyth and Seaton Delaval with Newcastle Central Station as well as to the Metro at Northumberland Park in North Tyneside, and draw up a detailed business case.
The report, which was also discussed at today’s (Monday, February 10) meeting of the council’s corporate services committee, reveals that the overall cost is now forecast to be £162million – £125million for phase one and £37million for phase two.
Strategic Transport Manager Stuart McNaughton said that, as part of work over the past 12 months, the business case had improved the cost-benefit ratio.
In June last year, it was agreed that the project 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.
The council’s administration is now hopeful of an announcement either as part of or around the time of the Government’s Budget on Wednesday, March 11, but there are ongoing efforts to find other funding pots, such as the Beeching Reversal programme announced last month, to avoid the two-phase approach.
Council leader Peter Jackson said that they had made representations to Ministers on this, adding that to get it done in one go ‘would be more cost-effective’.
Mr McNaughton explained that at the time of the TCF bid, the council could not demonstrate enough certainty that it could deliver on both phases of the development in the required time-scales so had to settle for seeking funding for just the first.