PRESSURE is mounting on Newcastle City Council to start work on a promised £15m upgrade to Newcastle’s Central Station.
Work was due to start this summer, but £4.9m from the Government’s regional growth fund secured for the project nine months ago has only just been made available.
Now opposition councilors – who instigated the funding for the project in 2010 – are calling for the work to begin.
Liberal democrat councilor Anita Lower said: “Whilst the council were waiting for the money to come, they could have been getting under way with the consultation process.
“Nine months have gone by – why haven’t we had more debate about what’s planned and what’s going to happen there?
“It seems a shame – it’s been put on the back-burner.
“By the time work is started, it will be another year the city misses out on the benefits of the project.” Money for the £15m facelift for Newcastle’s Central Station was confirmed in December 2011 with Network Rail contributing the £8.6m to the scheme.
Plans include changing the road layout and new shops and leisure facilities inside the Grade I- listed station building, which opened in 1850. The waiting rooms and toilets will also be improved.
Work had been timetabled to start this summer, but financial hold-ups now mean the project won’t be completed until 2014.
Coun Henri Murison, Newcastle City Council’s cabinet member for quality of life, said: “It is understandable that the funding for projects like the Central Gateway take time, as it’s important to make sure proposed plans and external financial support is in place to allow the project to be presented to the public for consultation.
“It’s also important that proper due diligence is carried out so that applications are assessed on the benefits that they will bring to the city and that they offer good value for money to the public, however, now that funding has been agreed we are keen to proceed at pace and expect the first stage of the Central Gateway to begin in January 2013.”
Earlier this month, public accounts committee chair, the Rt Hon Margaret Hodge MP, said it was “scandalous” that so many projects funded by the Regional Growth Fund are still to materialise.
Of the £1.4bn allocated, only £60m has so far reached front-line projects.
The council is due to launch their consultation into the station upgrade in October.