Rail line re-opening to passengers moves a step closer

Station information board.
Station information board.

Plans to re-open the Ashington, Blyth and Tyne Freight Line to passenger services have moved a step closer.

The Department for Transport’s (DfT) Invitations to Tender document sets out its expectations for companies bidding to run train services across the north of England for the next eight to ten years.

One of the requirements is that bidders “must be proactive in supporting and driving forward the development and implementation of proposed new station and line re-opening projects”.

And it refers specifically to a requirement to support the re-instatement of passenger services between Ashington and Newcastle.

The winning bidder would have to work with Northumberland County Council to ensure the project, which is due for completion in 2019, goes ahead.

The scheme could see an hourly service between Ashington and Newcastle, and half-hourly services at peak times.

Allowance would be made in the proposed timetable to accommodate the existing freight use of the line, as well as providing scope for increased freight demand.

The re-introduction of the passenger route was included in £350million of capital projects in the council’s budget, which was approved last week.

Council Leader Grant Davey said: “This is an exciting project of regional significance and it’s great to see this commitment in black and white to supporting the scheme.

“This line will have a number of benefits. It will be an added incentive for potential employers to relocate to the area, as well as improving transport links to employment for residents.

“It’s also positive to see planned improvements to other services within the county over the coming years.”

Other positive news in the document includes new Sunday services between the MetroCentre and Morpeth from December 2017, improved frequency of services between Hexham and Carlisle, and the extension of TransPennine Express services north of Newcastle towards Edinburgh.