Minister visits planned new rail line

The Secretary of State for Transport has seen first-hand plans for a new passenger line connecting Northumberland with Newcastle.

Transport Minister Chris Grayling spent more than an hour on a specially chartered train from Morpeth to find out more about the ambitious scheme to bring back rail passenger services throughout south east Northumberland.

Senior councillors took the opportunity to press the case for the reintroduction of the Northumberland Line as the Minister was transported to Bedlington and Newsham - which would be key stations on the future line.

Earlier this week the council announced proposals for a further £3.5m investment to develop the plans to reintroduce direct trains between south-east Northumberland and Newcastle Central - with thousands of residents a day being transported along the 20-mile route between Ashington and Newcastle city centre.

Studies show that reintroducing passenger services to the current freight line could boost the local economy by up to £70m with more than 800,000 annual return journeys by 2038.

Commuters and shoppers could speed between Ashington and the heart of Newcastle in as little as 35 minutes, with several new or rebuilt stations along the route linking towns to key areas of employment, training and leisure attractions as well as providing transport links across the wider region and the UK.

Council leader Peter Jackson said: "It was excellent be able to show the Transport Minister exactly what we’re trying to achieve and continue to press for Government support.

“The Government has classed this scheme as being of regional importance in their own Transport for the North proposals and Mr Grayling certainly understood our vision and found it a very informative trip.

Mike Paterson, Regional Director, Northern, said: “We wholeheartedly support plans to improve the rail network into Northumberland.  As the North’s regional and local railway company, we see great benefits to local communities by investing in this expansion of the railway in this way.”

The council aims to submit an outline business case and proposal for detail design for the Northumberland Line by the end of the year, with passenger services planned for 2022.

Cllr Jackson added: “We also took the opportunity to raise a number of other important transport issues with the Minister. These included A69 improvements, future plans for the A19/A189 roundabout and better rail services on the East Coast Main Line in the county.”
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