Campaign mounting to have Tyne Valley railway line electrified

A campaign is mounting in Northumberland to have the Tyne Valley railway line electrified

Baroness Kramer visits Hexham Railway Station to announce formal designation of the Tyne Valley Line as a community rail service
Baroness Kramer visits Hexham Railway Station to announce formal designation of the Tyne Valley Line as a community rail service

A county-wide campaign has been launched to bring a vital rail route in West Northumberland into the 21st Century.

Hexham MP Guy Opperman has asked organisations including Northumberland County Council to write to the government making the case for the electrification of the Tyne Valley line, from Newcastle to Carlisle.

All trains are currently diesel-powered on the line, but electrifying the route would mean faster, greener, quieter and more reliable trains.

The county council has given its support in a letter to an MP-led task force which is to decide on priorities for electrification from all the rail lines in the north of England that are not currently electrified or already scheduled for it.

The Tyne Valley Rail Users’ Group and Tyne Valley Community Rail Partnership have also given their backing.

The Electrification Task Force was set up by the secretary of state for transport to provide him with advice.

It consists of northern leaders, supported by experts from Network Rail, Rail North and the Department for Transport.

The task force will report to the secretary of state in February 2015.

Conservative MP Mr Opperman raised the potential electrification of the Tyne Valley line - on which all trains are currently diesel-powered - in parliament at the beginning of September, and met the chairman of the task force late last month.

He has now asked various organisations, including the county council, to write to the group calling for the line to be put high enough on the priority list to achieve its electrification at an early date.

The county council has written to the task force backing the electrification, for the benefit of residents and tourists.

The authority claims the line is of vital importance to many parts of West Northumberland whose residents use it for access to work, education, healthcare and shopping.

It says the economy of the area is dependent on tourism and that the rail line provides car-free access to many visitor attractions along Hadrian’s Wall.

The council points out that there has been a recent decline in passengers at most of the nine stations on the line in Northumberland.

In his letter, Coun Ian Swithenbank, policy board member for street care and environment, said: “I strongly suggest this is due firstly to the poor quality of existing rolling stock.

“Secondly to lack of capacity at peak times and thirdly to long journey times due to low overall line speeds.

“All of these would be overcome by electrification.

“This would benefit existing passengers, generate more usage and thus boost the economy of the Tyne Valley.”

In its response, the council also makes the point that electric traction means improved performance so that passengers enjoy faster, more comfortable, smoother and quieter journeys.

Experience, it adds, has shown that the very act of investing in railway electrification also gives passengers greater confidence that the line is valued by the railway operators and therefore has a secure future.

The “sparks effect” is said to be a well proven phenomena whereby passenger numbers significantly increases when a line is electrified.

Coun Swithenbank’s letter makes the point that electric trains take less time to slow down and speed up so each station stop takes up less time.

It also says electric railways have the potential to be the least environmentally damaging form of traction, however the power is sourced, and that electrification is also a more efficient way of transmitting power.

With electric traction it is also said to be possible to further increase efficiency through the method of braking used while electric trains are also said to be simpler and cheaper to maintain.

Mr Opperman said: “It is very positive news the council have responded to my letter and are now backing my campaign for

electrification of the Tyne Valley line.

“I hope we can work together on this vital project to help continue to improve our infrastructure here in Northumberland.”

Transport minister Baroness Kramer visited Hexham railway station to announce formal designation of the Tyne Valley line as a community rail service last month.

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