Passenger rail services are a significant priority for our council as we look to help get people off our roads and on to public transport. Railways help cut road congestion and in so doing pollution from cars which leads to poor air quality.
Earlier this year our Conservative run county council approved £3.5m of funding to allow detailed studies regarding the return of passenger services on the Northumberland Railway Line linking Newcastle, Northumberland Park, Seaton Delaval, Blyth Bedlington and Ashington. Those studies are now well underway and I was happy to be able to tell SENRUG members that we are finding the project to have a strong cost vs. benefit ratio, something that hopefully bodes well for our full funding application to Government later this year.
Our aim for the new stations on the Northumberland line is for them to become significant hubs in their own right, not dreary platforms that passengers find uninviting and that they cannot wait to escape. There is a confidence in our Administration that our towns will be significant destination points as well as a means to commute from Newcastle and North Tyneside. Getting the plan right for these "landing points" in our communities will be key therefore in driving their future success and such work represents an important part of our ongoing studies.
Separately we continue to examine the potential for the line from Ashington to Chevington. Our Council has already protected this existing line from inappropriate development in our New Local Plan and we will look to see what else we can do to secure its future in the coming months.
Our ambition for our railways does not stop with the Northumberland Line. We continue to look at how we can bring stations into use on the East Coast Mainline at Beal and Belford as well as increasing passenger stops on all other stops up to Berwick. There is hope that together with other partners we can commission works on this soon to help build the case for such plans in future rail franchises. There is also a continued effort to look at the feasibility of a new station at Gilsland on the Newcastle to Carlisle Railway.