Passenger services are expected to return to the route by December 2023, with six new stations due to be built.
Bosses have confirmed commuters riding the new railway won’t have to pay a penny to leave their cars, but have raised the possibility of introducing charges once the service has established itself.
“I think it’s an excellent idea to have free car parking for two years,” said John Beynon, county councillor for Morpeth Stobhill.
“I think [without it], like you have in Morpeth where there is charged car parking, that people would be parking in surrounding streets.
“I think it’s an excellent idea, the last thing we want is residents who live nearby to be angered by people parking outside their homes.”
According to a report for Northumberland County Council’s (NCC) Corporate Services and Economic Growth Overview and Scrutiny Committee, an agreement on whether the local authority or transport operator Northern Rail will run station car parks on the line is due to be finalised later this year.
It is hoped that free parking will ‘provide the best opportunity’ to encourage travellers to swap their cars for trains.
However, the paper does not commit to any long-term plans and admits that future charges could become a “valuable revenue stream”.
Labour opposition county councillor Elizabeth Dunn, the panel’s vice chairman, urged transport chiefs to avoid any policy which could end up “discouraging” use of public transport.
Stuart McNaughton, the NCC’s strategic transport manager, told the committee: “What we would do, I anticipate, is detailed surveys of usage of the car parks, including surveys of the residential streets.
“Depending on the level of use, that would inform a decision on whether it was kept across all six stations, or if there was a unique solution for each individual station.”
Government ministers have already allocated at least £34m to the railway project, with new stations planned at Ashington, Bedlington Station, Blyth Bebside, Newsham, and Seaton Delaval, as well as new platforms at the Tyne and Wear Metro’s Northumberland Park stop.