A LONG-RUNNING project to restart a historic rail link in Northumberland has taken a major step forward.
The Aln Valley Railway Trust, which wants to revive the running of steam trains from Alnwick to Alnmouth, has signed a lease with its president the Duke of Northumberland’s estates, for the use of his land for the project.
The line linking the two communities was built in 1850 but closed in 1968.
The idea of reopening it was first mooted in 1995 but the trust suffered a series of delays and false dawns, including a failed bid for Heritage Lottery funding and a rival plan to have the old route designated as a public footpath. The project finally got back on track when a full planning application was approved by Northumberland County Council in July 2010.
Last year, the trust received funding to allow it to kick-start the scheme.
And on Wednesday, the lease was signed at the duke’s Alnwick Castle home.
The signing paves the way for track to be laid in the near future, starting at the Alnwick end, and the trust hopes to have trains running on part of the route by the end of the summer.
Chairman Martin Robinson said: “We are absolutely delighted to have reached this important milestone in the restoration of the railway. Everybody involved has worked tremendously hard to achieve this, but there is still a huge amount of work still to done.”
The project proposes laying 2.3 miles 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.
It is hoped it will bring to the area tourism and employment – through the building and running of the line.
The plan was originally for the line to run to Alnwick’s former rail station, now Barter Books.
However, a bridge would have to be built across the A1 while a new superstore has blocked the route to the former station.
Rolling stock for the project and track has been acquired gradually and worked on at sites at Longhoughton and Wooler, the latter by engineer Mick Fairnington.