`

Railway station hopes appear to hit buffers

Belford Station.
Belford Station.

Hopes that the railway station at Belford could be reopened as part of an improved local service appear to have been dashed.

Northumberland County Council has said there is no evidence to suggest there is a robust business case to support the reopening of Belford or Scremerston.

Stuart McNaughton, the council’s strategic transport policy officer, said: “The county-council bid for monies from Network Rail’s New Stations Fund in 2013 to deliver a station at Belford was unsuccessful.

“Network Rail’s review of the business case submission concluded that there were issues that needed to be addressed with the demand forecasts. However, even if these were addressed, the low frequency of train service as well as dispersed population means patronage is likely to be low. There was no strong evidence to support the proposed demand at Belford where much of the passenger catchment area overlaps with that of Chathill Station.

“As a result, the application did not meet the criteria of the New Stations Fund of having a business case of medium value for money or greater.

“The council has no current plans to invest further in the Belford Station project or to commence work on Scremerston Station.

“We are committed to making improvements to the public transport network across the county, but any significant expenditure needs to be supported by a strong business case and we see there being little prospect of this happening for either Belford or Scremerston stations.”

County councillor for the Belford area, John Woodman, said: “The case to reopen the station just to handle the Chathill train was unfortunately never good enough on its own. The real opportunity comes from a stopping service between Newcastle and Edinburgh. The new Transpennine Express franchise hopes to operate such a service from 2019 and this gives us a focus to reopen the station.

“What will be interesting, given the additional push for more trains to stop at Chathill, is whether people can unite behind one campaign to improve rail connectivity in north Northumberland.”

He added: “Belford’s bus connections, location as a crossroad between the coast and Glendale and pivotal point for the visitor economy is ideally placed for a new station, along with others currently planned in Scotland on this line.

“This is something that SENRUG (South East Northumberland Rail Users Group) has been pushing and I’ve been promoting with the council’s strategic transport team.”