£870,000 signed off to keep Northumberland Line project on track
Councillors have signed off on more cash to keep the Northumberland Line project on track, ahead of a hoped-for Government funding commitment in November.
At the Tuesday, October 13, meeting of the county council’s cabinet, members agreed to meet a £870,000 shortfall in the budget for ground investigation works for the bid to bring back passenger rail services to south-east Northumberland by 2023.
Also known as the Ashington, Blyth and Tyne Line, there would be stations at Ashington, Bedlington, Blyth Bebside, Newsham, Seaton Delaval and the existing Metro station at Northumberland Park, connecting to Newcastle Central.
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.
As previously revealed, the project, estimated to cost £162million, is now part of a fast-tracked business case process and the report to councillors explained that it will be considered by the Department for Transport’s (DfT) Rail Investment Board in November and ‘will include an ask for a Decision to Deliver the project as well as funding for advanced works’.
The report also notes that the additional £870,000, which will come from the allocation already in the council’s capital programme for this year, may be reimbursed by the Government.
Cllr Richard Wearmouth, the cabinet member responsible for regeneration, told the meeting: “This is really important that we approve this today so we continue to make rapid progress with the delivery of the Northumberland Line.”
He added: “The final business case is with DfT, we’re going into the tunnel, so to speak, in terms of finalising the package of support from the Government and I’ll be speaking with some of the folks in Westminster on this later today.
“We just need to make sure we are speedy in these works and this will enable us to do that.”
The local authority has subsequently confirmed that work is getting underway next week to explore ground conditions along the route, with more than 80 exploratory holes to be dug at proposed station locations, bridges and embankments.
In preparation, the team has undertaken extensive environmental surveys to ensure the work doesn’t disturb the surrounding natural environment.
Cllr Wearmouth said: “It really feels like we’re now making fast progress on this ambitious scheme and people will see more activity along the route while these investigations take place.
“While this work won’t impact on anyone’s properties, we do thank people for their patience while this crucial stage of the scheme takes place.”
Council leader Glen Sanderson added: “I’m delighted we’ve reached the next stage of works on this hugely important project which is set to boost the local economy by up to £470million over the coming years.”