NEW rail lines for the North East were today demanded by a major report. The Association of Train Operating Companies (ATOC) called for links to Ashington, Blyth and Washington as part of its demand for 40 unconnected towns across the country to be linked to the network.
The organisation says more than a million extra passengers could be served by the opening of 14 railway lines and about 40 new stations across the country.
Ashington and Washington have both been highlighted as towns which would benefit from a major rail expansion, involving the reopening of passenger lines and the development of new stations.
In a report published today ATOC argues that demand for rail services has soared in the last decade and there is a strong case for refurbishing and reopening old routes.
They include the Ashington, Blyth and Tyne freight line in Northumberland, which was axed as part of the Beeching cuts of the 1960s but whose reopening would mean regular passenger trains between Ashington and Newcastle.
The full reopening of the line would also provide new passenger stations at Bedlington Station, Bebside and Newsham on the outskirts of Blyth, and Seaton Delaval.
The ATOC reports also highlights Washington, which could get two new stations under plans to reopen the Leamside line, which closed in 1992.
The Beeching cuts in the 1960s reduced the railway network by a third, closing 2,000 stations and 5,000 miles of track. But the ATOC report says some 40 towns not currently on the rail network could benefit from the 14 new lines.
Yesterday Dennis Fancett, chairman of the South East Northumberland Rail Users’ Group which is spearheading the campaign to reopen the ABT line, said: “Obviously I am delighted that ATOC has included the line among those it would like to see reopened.
“I do believe there is a very strong case for restoring passenger trains on the line. The track is in full working order and some of the stations are virtually intact.
“At a time when it is a struggle to find work, this scheme would boost the local economy and improve access to jobs on Tyneside. In Ashington’s case, reopening the line would reconnect a station which is right in the town centre.”
Reopening the Leamside line would provide a train service from Newcastle to Teesside via Washington. Under the plans, stations could open in Washington North and South, Penshaw, Fence Houses and Gateshead East, with trains carrying up to 2,000 passengers a day.
Today’s ATOC report says decision on whether any of the 14 lines will reopen will be taken by local and regional government, Network Rail and the Department for Transport. In total they could cost £500m, it claims.
Chief executive Michael Roberts said: “We have established that there is a strong business case for investment to bring a number of towns back on to the rail network.”