A LONG-running bid to reinstate a historic Northumberland rail link is building up a head of steam, with the submission of plans.
The Aln Valley Railway, which saw steam trains run from Alnmouth to Alnwick on a line built in 1850, closed in 1968.
The idea of reopening the line was first mooted in 1995 but the Aln Valley Railway Trust has suffered a series of delays and false dawns, including a failed bid for Heritage Lottery funding and a five-year hold-up caused by a rival bid to have the old route designated as a public footpath.
But now, the project is now back on track with a full planning application having been submitted to Northumberland County Council.
The project, backed by trust president Duke of Northumberland on whose land the line runs, proposes laying 2.3miles of track for steam trains from the current Alnmouth station, linked to the East Coast main line; to a new station, visitor centre, educational facilities and park and ride beside Alnwick’s Lionheart Enterprise Park.
The scheme is designed to bring more visitors to Alnwick, potentially taking the number of tourists visiting the district to over a million a year. There will also be more jobs through increased tourism and in the building and running of the line, which would also be a commuter route.
Initial plans were to bring the railway to the old Alnwick station, currently the town’s Barter Books second hand store.
But this is not part of the current application as there is a lack of space around the old station and the cost of building a bridge over the A1 is prohibitive.
The project will also involve trains running once again over the seven-arch 1850 Cawledge viaduct, designed by Robert Stephenson, which would be restored with funding.
The trust has already acquired steam and diesel locomotives which it is currently renovating at bases at Wooler and Longhoughton.
The project will see a new cycle path created, linking Alnwick to the national bike route for the first time, and a path for pedestrians and riders.
The trust is hoping to get a decision on its planning application early in the new year and, subject to no intervention from government, to then start on the ground later in the year.
However, it may be four or five years before the line is fully operational as a commuter route.
Spokesman Roger Jermy said: “It has been a long hard slog to get to this position. What we are hoping now is things will start to actually take place.
“Support is beginning to mount but we look forward to hearing the different comments.
“No doubt there will be some objectors, we will just have to deal with those as they come forward.
“We are certainly aware that Alnwick needs this link for lots of different purposes.
“We are hoping that the council will pass this without any need to refer it to the Department of Environment, that is our fervent hope.”
The trust has aspirations of building a lightweight bridge across the A1 to bring trams into Alnwick town and on to the Alnwick Garden, and of running commuter trains directly from Alnwick to Newcastle.