As Leader of Northumberland County Council I have great ambition for the future of our Great County. Piece by piece over less than two years in control of the County Council we have been putting in the foundations for a prosperous future of our county. This week marked a milestone in that process with the visit of a Conservative Cabinet Minister giving support to our progress.
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.
Earlier this week I 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. This investment from our Conservative County Council is likely to bring in the £190 million needed to fully re-open this passenger line from our Conservative Government’s Transforming Cities Fund.
Studies show that reintroducing passenger services to the current freight line could boost the local economy by up to £70m per year with more than 800,000 annual return journeys by 2038 and significantly reduce congestion on our roads..
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.
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.
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.
After years of Labour talk but no action on this strategic project I have been able to actually bring this to a position in which it will actually be delivered. Not only has this new rail passenger route been now established as one of regional importance, bur I have achieved the backing of the Minister for Transport and the likelihood of huge Government funding and passenger services running along the rail tracks of Northumberland for the first time since 1964.
We also took the opportunity to raise a number of other important transport issues with the Minister. These included fully dualling the A1, A69 improvements, future plans for the A19/A189 roundabout and better rail services on the East Coast Main Line in the county.
We are on track to deliver for Northumberland where others have failed.