The Journal's front-page story on Tuesday about the student who wanted rail access to Northumberland College in Ashington only to find that the station had closed 40 years ago was amusing, but only emphasises how important such a link would be.
We in the South East Northumberland Rail User Group (SENRUG) have done much work to show that the old Blyth and Tyne freight-only line could be opened up again for passengers relatively cheaply, and we have had support from a local rail operating company who say that they would be delighted to run such a service, if the backing was there to restore old stations like Ashington and Bedlington.
As is obvious from your photographs, the platforms are still there and access to the centre of these towns could not be better.
The article also makes it clear that the lack of a rail link affects people travelling not only from Ashington, but from Newcastle also. Access is needed to the college in Ashington, but the car park at the Wansbeck Hospital is also very difficult to get into at times. The new Woodhorn Experience will, we are sure, provide an attraction that will produce overflowing car parks.
We have worked with rail engineers of many years standing to show that a 40-minute trip via Morpeth, using the time when the train waits in a siding at that station, is quite feasible, as opposed to the 50 minutes by bus.
Once this link is seen to be working and popular, as we are sure it will be, the service could then be extended to Blyth and onwards to Seaton Delaval to make a connection with the Metro at Benton or even go on through to Newcastle Central.
We have tried to persuade Northumberland County Council, who developed plans for this line themselves not too long ago, to place this project much higher up their list of priorities. The Vale of Glamorgan line in Wales, which likewise was a freight-only line, was opened only last year to passengers with great acclaim.
Scotland is building new lines on old trackbeds such as the Waverley line from Edinburgh and another in Glasgow.
Rail is three times more environmentally acceptable than any other form of transport, and we should be trying to show that Northumberland, the county of George Stephenson, still backs his invention.
I hope the result of your story is not to make Northumberland College sorry they put an out-of-date map on their website, but rather to encourage them and others to lobby councillors and county officers to back full restoration of the station at Ashington with its very convenient access to the college.
Don't change the map to suit the circumstances. Change the circumstances to suit the map!
JOHN EARL, Secretary, South East Northumberland Rail User Group, Morpeth, Northumberland