A county council has unveiled a new plan to reintroduce direct trains between Newcastle and south-east Northumberland, bringing back passenger services to a current freight line in a £3.5m investment.
Northumberland County Council said it is “determined” to reintroduce the direct passenger services as it could boost the local economy by up to £70m, with more than 800,000 annual return journeys by 2038.
The trains would travel directly along a 20-mile freight route between Newcastle Central and Ashington in south-east Northumberland, and the council wants to submit formal proposals by the end of the year and commence passenger services in 2022.
Council leader Peter Jackson said: “We have always supported this ambitious proposal to help secure future jobs and growth across the whole county.
“The reintroduction of passenger services on the existing freight only line has been an aspiration of the county council for many years and fits with key local and regional policy in terms of promoting economic growth across south east Northumberland.
He said feasibility work commissioned by the council was nearing completion and that the emerging business case indicates it will be a positive project.
“It’s important we maintain momentum with the development of the scheme and commit financially towards the next stage, which will include design work, business case refinement, a detailed highways impact assessment and a range of engineering and ecology work.
“I’m particularly pleased the scheme is now being recognised as one of regional importance in the government’s Transport for the North proposals.”
Richard Wearmouth, the council’s cabinet member for economic regeneration, said that journey times could be reduced to as little as 35 minutes, and several new or rebuilt stations along the route would provide towns with transport links across the wider region and the UK.
“By its very nature this is an extremely ambitious long-term project and it’s important residents know a lot of work is going on behind the scenes to make this happen.”