RAIL commuters and people heading for a night out in Newcastle could benefit from improvements to Northumberland’s stations and transport network.
Work will start at Morpeth this spring to create a 92-space car park, along with an extension of Cramlington’s car park depending on lease negotiations with Network Rail.
Hexham could receive £350,000 towards extra car parking to meet increasing rail travel demands in the Tyne Valley, while Berwick could also see improvements in the future.
Hexham’s changes and station improvements at Alnmouth are awaiting approval from the Department for Transport.
The developments are part of Northumberland’s public transport strategy, which has been published in draft form to encourage debate.
The report states: “With increasing traffic on rail services in Northumberland, car parking has become a particular problem at a number of stations. The authority also places a priority on accessibility with a number of schemes implemented or planned which will meet this aim.”
Passengers using Hexham station have increased by 24% from 306,191 in 2002-3 to 381,098 in 2010-11.
In the same period Haydon Bridge has gone from 16,055 to 30,180, an increase of 90%, while Corbridge has gone from 48,890 to 81,711, a 67% increase.
The Hexham improvements would also give disabled passengers easier access to the eastbound platform. Currently drivers must access via the bridge or over the line.
Mayor of Hexham, Coun Rad Hare, said extra space was always welcome and that it was excellent to see more people using the trains along the Tyne Valley.
He said: “Obviously it’s got my full support and the town council’s full support. It will mean people will have access to trains going to the east so they can park there and go straight on to the platform.”
The transport plan aims to bring together bus and rail services under a unified strategy that makes the most of the county’s transport assets. This includes trying to coordinate bus timetables and ensuring a regular service to the coast to help both locals and visitors to use public transport rather than cars.
Another idea is campaigning for later services from Newcastle to Morpeth. Northumberland County Council states that, with the last train currently at 10pm, fewer people head to Newcastle for an evening out than otherwise would.
Coun Isabel Hunter, executive member for infrastructure and environment said: “This is a comprehensive strategy which sets out our plans for public transport in the county for the next five years. We are asking everyone with an interest in public transport in Northumberland to share their views on it with us.
“While we may not be able to put all suggestions into action because of limited available funds, we still want to hear from you.”
See the strategy at www.northumberland.gov.uk or call 0845 600 6400 for a copy. All comments should be sent to Mike Scott, Head of Strategic Transport, Northumberland County Council, County Hall, Morpeth, Northumberland, NE61 2EF or to Mike.Scott@northumberland.gov.uk