Northumberland Line: Work pressing ahead on rail route linking county to Metro system
Progress continues to be made on the £162million project to create a passenger rail link between south-east Northumberland and Newcastle.
The Northumberland Line, which will also connect to the Tyne and Wear Metro at Northumberland Park in North Tyneside, is expected to deliver economic benefits between £360million and £470million. The target is for services to start running in early 2023.
A range of on and off-track surveys are taking place in the area over the coming months, including ground investigations. These will help with the design of the proposed stations and the work required to the existing rail infrastructure.
Meanwhile, rail industry publications reported last week that, following on from the successful completion of the outline business case earlier this year, AECOM and SLC Rail will work together to provide ‘multidisciplinary project management, design, operations and advisory services’ to deliver the design phase.
Council leader Peter Jackson said: “Each new step in this ambitious project gives us greater confidence we can deliver this vital project for the people of Northumberland in the coming years.
“A whole raft of work is taking place behind the scenes and these surveys are a vital piece of that. We’ll be looking to have further consultation with the public later this year to share more details of where we are at with the project.”
The survey work will be carried out in line with all Government and NHS guidance relating to the reduction of the spread of Covid-19. Landowners along the route are being contacted ahead of the work taking place.
The scheme is currently the biggest rail upgrade in the UK promoted by a local authority and the biggest capital project Northumberland County Council has ever delivered.
In February 2019, the council’s cabinet approved £3.5million to develop the proposals, which would connect Ashington, Bedlington, Blyth and Seaton Delaval with Northumberland Park and Newcastle Central Station, and draw up a detailed business case.
In January this year, the Government announced £1.5million through its Beeching reversal fund to support the scheme to bring back passenger services on what was previously known as the Ashington, Blyth and Tyne Line, which has only carried freight since 1964.
This went into the pot as the county council approved a total of £10million in further spending in February, in order to move onto the detailed design phase.
At that point, it was revealed that the overall cost is now forecast to be £162million – £125million for phase one and £37million for phase two, but that there were ongoing efforts to find other funding pots, such as the Beeching reversal programme, to avoid the two-phase approach.
The Conservative administration expressed hopes then that a funding announcement would be coming in or around the time of the Spring Budget, after the project had been included in the North East’s £377million bid for the Government’s Transforming Cities Fund (TCF), with £99million earmarked for the line.
In March’s Budget, Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced that the region would receive £198million, with £95million earmarked for the Tyne and Wear Metro, however, there was no mention of the Northumberland Line, which has been talked up by several Ministers over the past year or so.
A HM Treasury spokeswoman explained that more detail on funding secured for specific projects would be announced by the Department for Transport in due course, although clearly this was overtaken by events as the coronavirus crisis took hold.