Study to assess viability of 'driverless' transport between Seaton Delaval railway station and hospital in Cramlington
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A proposed link between Northumbria Specialist Emergency Care Hospital (NSECH) in Cramlington and the currently under construction Seaton Delaval railway station is being assessed in the hopes it will improve public transport access to the hospital.
Public body Innovate UK has allocated £160,000 to conduct a feasibility study into a zero-emissions autonomous vehicle scheme for the route, which will be led by North East based developer Dysart.
Mike Clark, development director at Dysart, said: “This feasibility study has the potential to deliver world-first technology right on our doorsteps here in Cramlington.
“The autonomous proposal is a 21st century solution to a transport challenge that is efficient and environmentally sound.
“There is a whole package of opportunity around Cramlington and NSECH, which has the potential to deliver real and sustained benefit to the whole community.”
The proposed system, using technology from German firm Dromos, would involve self-driving vehicles operating individually or in a train along a new route segregated from other forms of transport.
The firm says this makes the technology safe, direct, demand-responsive, and reliable, and means the route offers better privacy and accessibility than other transport modes.
The feasibility study will focus on the service delivery, willingness to use and willingness to pay, carbon emissions, and accessibility of the proposal.
It will be undertaken at Newcastle University, where a similar study into use of this technology in Sunderland has already been done, and be led by Milestone Transport Planning.
If everything goes to plan, the route could be operating within two years and could shortly after be expanded to connect the railway station to Cramlington and Seghill as well.
Seaton Delaval station will be a calling point for trains between Ashington and Newcastle as part of the Northumberland Line project, and connecting the station to the hospital may encourage more people to use public transport for their journey.
Construction of the station began in July, and the Northumberland Line is expected to open to passengers for the first time since the 1960s in August 2024.