Plans to hook up Northumberland to Metro station via new rail link to return passenger train services from south-east of county to Newcastle
Details have been revealed of the works required to bring back passenger rail services linking south-east Northumberland and Newcastle.
In February, Transport Secretary Chris Grayling was very much in support of the project as he visited the county to take a ride along part of the route and hear more about the £190million plans for what’s now being called the Northumberland line, linking Ashington to Newcastle Central via Bedlington and Blyth.
It came as county councillors signed off on approximately £3.46million of spending to develop the next steps, with the aim of submitting an outline business case and proposal for the detailed design by the end of the year, and services planned to start in 2022.
Now, a screening opinion, in order to check if a full environmental impact assessment (EIA) is required and which precedes planning applications, has been lodged with Northumberland County Council, as well as North Tyneside Council – because it is proposed to create new rail platforms at the borough’s existing Northumberland Park Metro station.
The 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.
‘At present, with the exception of Manors and Newcastle Central, the scheme is considering the use of six new stations as follows: Ashington; Bedlington; Blyth Bebside; Newsham; Seaton Delaval; Northumberland Park (existing Metro station requiring new rail platforms),’ the report says.
‘The scheme is seeking to achieve competitive journey times between Ashington and Newcastle of less than 40 minutes depending on line-speed enhancements and calling patterns.’
The 130-page document, by SLC Property on behalf of the county council, sets out that it is anticipated that the development will be constructed in four phases.
The time each will take is not known at this stage, but phase one has been assumed to take 18 months and subsequent phases six months each, totalling three years.
Phase one ‘is likely to involve’ four new stations within the existing railway corridor – Ashington, Bedlington, Newsham and Northumberland Park; some line-speed increases in the single-track section; a double-track extension south of Newsham; removal of the line-speed constraint at Green Land level crossing; the construction of a turn-back facility at Ashington.
Phase two would see the creation of the other two stations – Blyth Bebside and Seaton Delaval plus targeted line-speed increases north of Newsham.
Phase three would involve line-speed improvements north of Bedlington, including limited signalling upgrades, before phase four would deliver capacity and reliability improvements to the infrastructure together with a passing loop at Seaton Delaval.
There are 22 level crossings along the route, all of which would be upgraded or closed as ‘the simple act of introducing passenger trains onto the railway increases the injury and fatality risks at each crossing’.
It is anticipated that the stations will operate without any station building, although the potential of using the existing station building at Bedlington is being considered.
The bulk of the report deals with the potential environmental impacts of the scheme and its various effects – traffic and transport; noise and vibration; water resources; air quality; ground conditions; ecology; archaeology; heritage; landscape and visual impact; socio-economics; recreation and tourism; health and wellbeing; climate change.
Overall, it concludes that ‘the development is not within a sensitive area, and the impacts on the environment and sensitive receptors will not be significant.
‘There are predicted to be beneficial impacts on the local environment and upon human receptors. As such the effect of the scheme is not predicted to be significant.
‘Accordingly, the local planning authority is requested to screen the development as not requiring an EIA.’