Assurances given over power station rail link

THE Alcan rail link will not be allowed to go to ‘rack and ruin’ following the smelter’s closure.

Officials were questioned about the future of the tracks at a public meeting last week.

Dennis Earl, of Newbiggin Town Council, said: “If you come to a point where the main smelter site has to be sub-divided for disposal we need to have agreements in terms of the rail link.

“It would be important to the area that something is put in place that ensures that rail link remains there, not just for one area, but for the whole part of the site. We need some sort of legacy structure to make sure of that in the future.”

Regional Economic Director for Lynemouth John McCabe said there is every intention of retaining the line as it is a valuable asset to the site, and the potential buyers of the power station are aware of that.

“Our intention is to complete the power station sales process and the rail infrastructure that we currently own will go into the power station to allow for rail deliveries of initially coal, but eventually biomass.

“The part of the infrastructure that is on the smelter side, we will retain that as part of our regional economic development work. There is no plan to just let that stretch go to rack and ruin and eventually be grassed over.

“If there is a strategic role that the council has for that stretch of line we will do all we can to facilitate that. It is potentially one of the selling points that that piece of line is there. There is not just road access and we are not a million miles from two ports, but the rail infrastructure is there as well.”

Vince Dudley, of Lynemouth Parish Council, said it would be beneficial if the line could be extended to offer local transport services to the community.

“A lot of people in Lynemouth have no access because of the total lack of public transport after 5.30pm or 6pm in the evening. Talking of the legacy that Alcan wants to leave, is there anything that can progress such as extending the railway from Woodhorn into Lynemouth? That would alleviate those problems,” he said.

“It is a serious problem that after 5.30pm on a Friday – unless you have a car – you are stuck in Lynemouth, unless you want to walk. I don’t know if you have noticed the amount of elderly people that are walking from Lynemouth into Ashington? There are no bus services at all.

“If you are looking at a legacy to leave, maybe you could look at something along those lines.”

Mr McCabe said the idea will be considered, but it is unlikely to happen.

“I’m not going to agree a legacy project today, nor will I rule any out, but that is probably an area that goes beyond our area of responsibility. It is talking about county transport policy,” he said.