Transport Secretary gives fresh backing to Northumberland Line

A map of the proposed Northumberland Line, as of July 2020A map of the proposed Northumberland Line, as of July 2020
A map of the proposed Northumberland Line, as of July 2020
The Transport Secretary has again backed a major Northumberland rail project, as its supporters await a crucial funding commitment.

It comes as the county council has launched a consultation for residents and other interested parties to look at and comment on detailed plans for the Northumberland Line, which could be carrying passengers by 2023, with journey times of just over half-an-hour from Ashington to Newcastle Central.

Also known as the Ashington, Blyth and Tyne Line, there would be intermediate stations at Bedlington, Blyth Bebside, Newsham, Seaton Delaval and the existing Metro station at Northumberland Park.

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A council report in October said that the business case is due to be considered by the Department for Transport’s (DfT) Rail Investment Board this month and ‘will include an ask for a Decision to Deliver the project as well as funding for advanced works’.

This week, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: “It is fantastic to see further progress on this important project, which will transform journeys up the Northumberland coastline and help level up the economy of the north.

“When I visited Blyth earlier this year, I saw for myself the huge potential this line has for restoring connections to communities who have lost out, undoing over half-a-century of damage following the Beeching cuts.

“Through our Restoring your Railway fund, we will reopen lost railway lines and stations, revitalising communities, kickstarting business and new housing schemes, and opening opportunities for work and education.”

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Cllr Richard Wearmouth, the council’s cabinet member for economic development, added: “There’s ever more confidence our long-term aspirations for this project are going to become reality – bringing social and economic benefits to residents, commuters, visitors and businesses both in Northumberland and the wider region.

“This consultation is a critical stage of the process. We really want everyone to be part of this journey and would appreciate feedback- either on specific elements or the scheme as a whole.”

The consultation, which started on Monday, November 16, is available at and will close on Monday, December 14.

Benefits welcomed, but dispute over credit

The launch of the consultation and the rising hopes of major progress on the project have reignited the row among politicians over who should claim credit.

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The two MPs in south-east Northumberland, Labour’s Ian Lavery, for Wansbeck, and Tory Ian Levy in Blyth Valley, have both encouraged their constituents to look at the plans and share their views.

And while they both agree that there will be major economic and social benefits to come from the reintroduction of passenger services, they have different views as to why it has taken so long to come to fruition.

Mr Levy said: “The project is closer than ever to being delivered with Labour failing to get anywhere near this point despite decades of local government control in Northumberland and a promise of funding from the Labour government 20 years ago, which turned out to be nothing but talk.

“The work that Conservative-led Northumberland County Council has put in since May 2017 has been incredible and this consultation will help further shape the way forward, including a planning application. I urge residents to take part and to give their views.”

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However, Mr Lavery said: “Reopening the Northumberland Line has been one of my priorities since I was initially elected in 2010 but regrettably the progress has been slow, as until recently the Government have been uninterested in the reopening of the line as an immediate concern.

“Since the line shut to passenger rail back in 1964, based on the recommendations of the Beeching report, there has been a campaign to reopen the line citing the economic and social benefits it would have for our region.

“It is fair to say then that the plans to have passenger trains running by 2023 is therefore not before time.”

And the Labour group on Northumberland County Council, which was in power from 2013 to 2017, has claimed its efforts ‘got the rail project to where it is now’.

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Group leader, Cllr Susan Dungworth, said: “Infrastructure projects like this take a long time to complete and most of the leg work on this project was done when Labour was in power in Northumberland.

“The Labour-run council invested money, time and expertise getting the project to the point of becoming a reality.”

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