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'Fantastic' Northumberland Line rail plans on track for 2023 opening after key government approval

Chronicle Live logo Chronicle Live 28/06/2022 Daniel Holland

New train services between Newcastle and Northumberland are on track to start next year after the highly-anticipated plans overcame another crucial hurdle.

Construction is due to get underway this summer to restore passenger services to the Northumberland Line, following a critical seal of approval from the government. Six new stations will be built and 18 miles of track upgraded under the proposals to run a half-hourly service between Newcastle and Ashington from December 2023 – stopping at Bedlington, Bebside, Newsham, Seaton Delaval and Northumberland Park.

The project was given a major boost on Monday, as it was confirmed that a Transport and Works Act Order (TWAO) has been granted for it to go ahead, authorising the closure of level crossings, land purchases, and track works. The decision from the transport secretary Grant Shapps comes after a month-long public inquiry last year.

Read More: The eight new North East railway lines that could transform our region's train services by 2035

There were 22 objections made against the plans, but TWAO unit boss Natasha Kopala wrote that the “localised” adverse impacts of the railway line were “clearly outweighed by the significant benefits that will be delivered”. In a letter to Northumberland County Council on Monday, she said: “The Secretary of State agrees with the Inspector that the Order is an integral part of the Scheme and restoring passenger services to the Northumberland Line is of considerable importance to securing improvements in public transport and contributing to an improvement in social and economic conditions in South-East Northumberland.”

The decision notice added that traffic congestion caused by the introduction of level crossings is “only likely to be noticeable on a few routes” and sided with the development of the railway line over a care home proposed by the Malhotra group on land that will instead now be used for car parking at the Ashington station.

Northumberland Line Map © BBC LDRS Northumberland Line Map

The secretary of state has also removed all reference to a controversial underpass proposed in Ashington in issuing the order, after fears that it could become a magnet for crime and anti-social behaviour. Ms Kopala wrote that the council had requested that the underpass be omitted from the TWAO and “if they decided to proceed with the underpass option, they will seek authorisation for that option through alternative statutory procedures”.

Planning permission has already been granted for all six of the new stations that will be served by the reopened line, which was shut to everything except freight traffic in the Beeching cuts of the 1960s. County council leader Glen Sanderson welcomed Monday’s announcement, saying: “This is really positive news and is yet another key milestone this fantastic project has reached.

“The public inquiry was extremely thorough and carefully examined every aspect of the scheme over the course of several weeks. We can now look forward with renewed confidence as we continue to bring this much-needed rail scheme forward.”

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