Government asked to consider re-opening County Durham railway.
Proposals to reopen a rail connection from Consett to Newcastle have been submitted to the government by a North East council.
Durham County Council has submitted a Strategic Outline Business Case (SOBC) to the Department for Transport to re-establish a passenger rail connection between the two locations.
In 2020, the government established a £500 million fund to restore railways and reconnect communities. As part of this, it confirmed that additional funding was available to explore the feasibility of 15 transport proposals which aim to restore local rail services.
Durham County Council submitted an Expression of Interest to explore the feasibility of restoring the rail service in Consett as part of its broader commitment to improving public transport connectivity across the county. In November 2020, it was awarded funding to further develop proposals.
This week, the council submitted the case, with the endorsement of Richard Holden, MP for North West Durham, for the restoration of passenger rail services.
This will now be assessed by the Department for Transport, which will decide whether it will be progressed further to a detailed assessment. Under the proposals, a new station would be built at Consett as well as further intermediate additional stations along different route options.
Route options have also been reviewed and include a route via Annfield Plain and Stanley, which would link to Newcastle via the East Coast Main Line. A potential route via the Derwent Valley has also been explored, with the council committed to further developing appropriate environmental and cycle route mitigations along these potential routes.
The business case states that establishing a new railway line between Consett and Newcastle would enhance access to opportunities within the wider North East area, reduce the environmental impacts of existing road traffic and improve air quality.
Cllr Richard Bell, the council’s Deputy Leader and Cabinet member for finance, said: “Plans to reopen a railway service in Consett are in their infancy and very much at an explorative stage, but findings from our initial research are very positive. If successfully implemented, the scheme would lead to major improvements in connectivity between Consett and the wider North East region, opening up the area for residents, businesses and visitors.
“Projections show that up to three million annual trips could be achieved, from a potential station at Consett and other stations along the Annfield Plain and Stanley corridor. A new line would act as a catalyst in accelerating investment in the local area, contributing to a reduction in levels of deprivation by offering better access to higher value jobs and promoting the area as a fantastic place to live and work.”
Richard Holden, MP for North West Durham, said: “For decades, we’ve seen services removed from the towns and villages of North West Durham. It’s time for that to change.
“When I was elected, I promised I’d campaign for improved bus connections, cycling and walking access, and a fixed public transport links between Consett and the Tyne as well as connecting Crook and Weardale to Darlington. I’m delighted that working with Durham County Council, we’ve now received feasibility funding support for both of the big transport schemes and that the first is reporting today.
“I’m fully supportive of the SOBC being submitted and am looking forward to working with the council to campaign for the next stages of this plan to level up local transport.
“The people in towns and villages of North West Durham deserve the same opportunity as those in any other part of the country to access career and education opportunities. I will continue to campaign to deliver greater opportunity for everyone in North West Durham.”