Claims Northumberland Line project lacks 'wow factor'

The Northumberland Line project has been criticised for lacking a 'wow' factor.The Northumberland Line project has been criticised for lacking a 'wow' factor.
The Northumberland Line project has been criticised for lacking a 'wow' factor.
New stations planned for the Northumberland Line rail project have been accused of lacking the “wow factor” needed to make the venture a success.

Proposals to return passenger services to the former Ashington, Blyth and Tyne Line are currently being assessed by a government-appointed inspector in a public inquiry.

And while the overall scheme remains popular, some have questioned whether the brains behind it have been ambitious enough.

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“I am heartily disappointed in each and every one [of the station designs],” said Cllr Caroline Ball, who represents Northumberland County Council’s (NCC) Ashington Central ward.

“It’s a bus shelter on a stand, but these are supposed to be the regeneration kick starter for the Ashington to Newcastle line and it’s supposed to have a wow factor.

“There is absolutely none of that.

“We haven’t looked at things like retail opportunities – why is that being neglected when this is supposed to be a fantastic scheme to regenerate the area?

“I’m trying to justify the spend [on the scheme] to my residents, but it’s really disappointing.”

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The public inquiry is being held in Blyth throughout November, while NCC defends its application for a Transport and Works Act Order (TWAO) needed to authorise track works and allow it to take over land considered essential to the scheme.

So far, planning permission has been granted for new stations at Ashington, Bedlington and Seaton Delaval, as well as changes to the Northumberland Park stop on the Tyne and Wear Metro which will link it to the line.

Further applications have also been submitted for Blyth Bebside and Newsham.

Defending the station designs, representatives of NCC told the inquiry a report on how the new stops could attract jobs and investment was due to be completed next year.

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“Fundamentally, we have a railway which has been allowed to decline to standards which are suitable for freight, but not suitable for passenger services,” said Julian Sindall, a director at Cadenza Transport Consulting, acting for the county council.

“In terms of the quality of stations and their lack of ‘wow factor’, we have been fighting all the way to try and get the best possible value we can for the taxpayers’ money.”