VILLAGERS are on track for a return to the golden age of rail for the first time since the month of the Coronation.
Passenger trains last stopped regularly at the station at Witton le Wear, near Bishop Auckland, County Durham, in 1953.
Later this month passengers could again be boarding and alighting from newly installed platform – but only at weekends. The station was closed to passengers in June 1953 – the month when Queen Elizabeth II was crowned in Westminster Abbey.
But Gerald Mudd, director for Weardale Railway, announced yesterday: “In an initiative involving the Weardale Railway, Witton le Wear Parish Council, the Witton Castle Country Park and Durham County Council a new station is being constructed.
“The railway has tested demand by utilising a temporary platform and now in this joint scheme is helping to build a permanent platform so that residents and visitors can board trains on a regular basis. If all goes well the platform could be operational in August.”
Parish council chairman Brewis Henderson sold lottery tickets door to door in a bid to help raise funds.
He said part of an old station platform at Bishop Auckland had been rebuilt at Witton-le-Wear at a cost of around £25,000.
“The parish council paid about £6,000 towards the platform, the county council through the local Area Action Partnership paid a similar amount, so did Witton Castle Country Park, and the railway contributed the remainder.
“It will be fantastic to have trains stopping at Witton-le-Wear after almost 60 years.”
Although the village has a population of just 550 Mr Henderson, a retired firefighter, is convinced the new halt will be popular.
“At weekends there are hundreds of caravanners at Witton Castle who I am sure will be keen to use the train to travel to Stanhope in one direction or Bishop Auckland to shop in the other.
“And anybody wanting to travel to London at the weekend from Witton le Wear by rail will be able to do so,” said Mr Henderson.
The opening of the station has yet to be arranged, but Mr Henderson and Mr Mudd said it was hoped to be later this month.
Witton le Wear railway station is on Weardale railway’s heritage line which runs 16 miles from Stanhope to Bishop Auckland, from where passengers can connect to Northern Rail’s line to Darlington and then on to the East Coast Main Line.
But a bid by the railway to run four daily passenger services between Stanhope and Bishop Auckland two years ago proved a flop.
Now only weekend passenger services and heritage trains run although a successful freight service on the line has also been introduced, ferrying coal from an opencast site near Tow Law to power stations in the Midlands.