Northumberland Line rail project announcement could be imminent hints PM Boris Johnson

The Prime Minister hinted during his visit to Northumberland that a funding announcement for a major rail project in the county could be imminent.
Prime Minister Boris JohnsonPrime Minister Boris Johnson
Prime Minister Boris Johnson

Meanwhile, 940 people have given their views on detailed plans for the Northumberland Line – which could be carrying passengers in 2023, with journey times of just over half-an-hour from Ashington to Newcastle Central – as part of a county council consultation, which closed this week.

This comes ahead of planning applications being submitted ‘early next year’, according to local authority chiefs.

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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.

Northumberland Line MapNorthumberland Line Map
Northumberland Line Map

During his visit to Blyth on Friday, December 11, in response to a question about how the North East would be supported in the event of a no-deal Brexit, Boris Johnson said it would be a case of continuing the ‘uniting and levelling-up agenda’.

Among other aspects, he mentioned ‘supporting the reversals of the Beeching cuts for railways, which I think can make a huge difference for people’s opportunities and lives’.

“The ability to commute in an affordable way to a place where a job is likely to be created can be absolutely transformational for people’s lives,” he added.

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The Prime Minister later told reporters that he would be ‘back soon because we’ve got to do the railway announcement’.

In recent weeks, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has also continued to talk up the scheme, which received £1.5million from the Government’s Beeching reversal fund in January 2020 to help continue developing the plans.

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.

Following the end of the consultation, Cllr Richard Wearmouth, the council’s cabinet member responsible for economic development, said: “We’d like to thank everyone who’s taken time to make their views known on this hugely important scheme for the whole region.

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“Due to the Covid restrictions, it just wasn’t possible to do face-to-face consultation, but we’ve got a lot of feedback on various elements of the scheme which is now being evaluated ahead of planning applications being submitted early next year.”

Council leader Glen Sanderson added: “This scheme has the potential to transform this part of the world, not just in terms of transport links, but bringing a boost to education and job opportunities, and a huge injection into our economy.

“The public’s views are key to the scheme’s success and we look forward to more engagement with our communities as work progresses.”

A council report in October 2020 said that the business case was due to be considered by the Department for Transport’s (DfT) Rail Investment Board last month and would ‘include an ask for a Decision to Deliver the project as well as funding for advanced works’.