Strong support for trust’s station plans

Brought to you by the Morpeth Herald.
Brought to you by the Morpeth Herald.

Rail travellers have overwhelmingly backed plans to remodel Morpeth Railway Station at the same time as creating an enterprising hub for small businesses on the site.

Greater Morpeth Development Trust (GMDT) is hoping to start work this year to refurbish and improve the station, as well as develop office space in its trackside buildings for budding businesses.

It has recently been testing the reactions of rail users to its proposals and both trackside and online surveys have revealed strong support for the proposal.

Around 90 per cent of those who responded said they were in favour of plans to improve its facilities, such as creating office workspace for new businesses and re-modelling the station’s ticket office, while there was even greater support for the idea of opening a station bistro cafe.

As well as travellers passing through Morpeth, businesses on the adjoining Coopies Lane Industrial Estate were also invited to take part in one of the surveys and again the results showed strong support for the initiative.

GMDT is working on building up a £1.5million package of financial support to allow work to begin in the summer on improvements to the 167-year-old Grade II listed station buildings.

Chief executive David Lodge said the trust is very encouraged that the surveys have received so many positive responses.

He added: “Morpeth Railway Station is becoming increasingly busy and popular, with travellers commuting into Newcastle but also going further afield onto the main rail network.

“It was also encouraging to learn very recently that there are going to be more frequent main East Coast line trains stopping at Morpeth and that new direct services to Leeds, Manchester and Liverpool will be starting in the future.

“Work is also starting on the construction of many new homes around Morpeth, which should again increase the number of people regularly travelling by train to and from the town.

“We believe all this strengthens our case for improving its facilities as well as innovatively using empty offices to house up to seven small businesses in what would be a very unique location for them.

“The plans are exciting and imaginative and we are looking forward to progressing them in the New Year.

“We believe our plans will not only preserve an historic building but also ensure that it survives long into the 21st Century – providing first-class facilities for travellers and businesses moving into the office workspace.”

The station, which was opened in 1847 for the Newcastle & Berwick Railway Company, is recognised as a lasting legacy of the great railway network expansion of the mid-18th Century.

It was designed by the architect Benjamin Green, who along with his father John was responsible for some of the North’s most iconic buildings such as Newcastle’s Theatre Royal, Grey’s Monument and the Penshaw Monument.

The trust’s proposals include repairing and improving general station buildings, re-opening the original portico entrance and improving the ticket office.

It is hoping to attract funding from sources such as the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Railway Heritage Trust amongst others such as Northumberland County Council, Network Rail and Northern Rail.