Two Northumberland schemes included in £5billion 'pipeline' transport infrastructure bid

Barry White, chief executive at Transport for the NorthBarry White, chief executive at Transport for the North
Barry White, chief executive at Transport for the North
Two key schemes in south-east Northumberland are included in a call for the Government to back a £5billion pipeline of infrastructure projects.

Transport for the North (TfN) has set out its initial plans for a Northern Infrastructure Pipeline (NIP), a 30-year investment plan ‘to underpin greener northern growth’.

This £5billion package includes rail, road, active travel and smart ticketing proposals, and underpins TfN’s proposed Economic Recovery Plan (ERP).

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The ERP is aimed at accelerating delivery of infrastructure projects to help ‘rebuild and transform the north’.

Included in the list of schemes that can start construction within two to four years – as opposed to those that can be delivered within six to 18 months – are the Northumberland Line and the Blyth relief road.

Barry White, chief executive at Transport for the North, said: “Our focus must be on rebuilding the north’s economy, which was already at an economic disadvantage to the south before Covid-19 hit.

“Our Economic Recovery Plan outlines quick-fire ways to rapidly invest in shovel-ready infrastructure projects and initiatives, helping rebuild and transform the north over the next few years.”

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He added: “Crucially, these aren’t new or over-ambitious asks. They’re projects already in the system that now need the starting gun firing or a bit of work to nudge them across the line.”

The stations would be at Ashington, Bedlington, Blyth Bebside, Newsham, Seaton Delaval and the existing Metro station at Northumberland Park.

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.

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Last week, we reported that a one-phase approach now appeared to be the preferred option, with a final business case due to be submitted to the DfT next spring and the service possibly launching in May 2024 – 18 months or so later than originally hoped.

A Northumberland County Council spokesman said that the authority ‘continues to make good progress’, adding: “Ideally we would like to carry out the work in a single phase, although there are still a number of hurdles to clear before any final decisions are made.”

Meanwhile, the Blyth relief road aims to resolve the issue of excess traffic adversely affecting the economic growth of the area, and the movement of people and goods, particularly to and from the Port of Blyth.

The two main roads into the town, the A193 Cowpen Road and A1061 Laverock Hall Road, each carry over 20,000 vehicles a day and both suffer from congestion during peak periods, which also has a harmful effect upon the environment through exhaust emissions, and impacts the reliability of buses.

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In July 2019, Northumberland County Council’s cabinet approved the preferred route – a new link road from Princess Louise Road to the A192/A189 Three Horseshoes interchange, with a cost estimate of £22.2million – following the backing of residents during consultation earlier in the year.

Members also agreed to contribute £3.3million as the 15% match-funding required to access a Government funding scheme.

Reacting to the news, Alistair Westwood, CBI North East Assistant Director, said: “Accelerated improvements to northern infrastructure would help the region’s economic recovery as we look to build back better from Covid-19.

“Enabling Northern Powerhouse Rail is a crucial part of the levelling-up agenda, while steps towards smart ticketing and active travel reflect the findings of the CBI’s recent commuting report. This would all help to boost connectivity, improve passenger experiences and increase productivity for communities across the North.

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“If government backs these plans, it must work hand-in-hand with industry to ensure promises of investment turn into action. The delivery of this 30-year plan will unlock much-needed investment, create jobs and opportunities for young people, and inject vital cashflow into supply chains right across the North of England.”

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