On 12th October 2015 Northumberland County Council initiated the GRIP 2 feasibility study, costing around £850,000, to carry out the detailed development work for the Ashington, Blyth & Tyne scheme. (photo John Brierley)
Railfuture affiliated group SENRUG, which campaigns for better rail services in South East Northumberland, said it was delighted at the news that Northumberland County Council has committed to the next stage in the process for introducing a new passenger train service between Newcastle and Ashington.
Railfuture has supported the SENRUG campaign for the re-instatement of passenger services on the line, which is a fully maintained freight route, since 2005. SENRUG Chair and Railfuture member Dennis Fancett said: “The tracks are there and working. It won’t take much to re-open the line. This should be the easiest rail re-opening in the country to deliver”.
Nevertheless, the Council still has to go through Network Rail’s 8 stage GRIP process. Stage 1 was completed in March 2014, including the Market Appraisal and Demand Assessment reports which comprise the benefits case. The step announced this week is stage 2. Only at stage 4 do Network Rail determine the full re-opening costs of the scheme, allowing the Council and other stakeholders to make the final decision.
Dennis said he was concerned at the amount of time it was taking to move through the various stages. “We need to speed up” he said. “We are of course delighted the Council is now fully committed, but we need more momentum”.
In 2008, SENRUG organised a charter train round the line to Ashington to demonstrate how easy re-opening it would be, and last year the group organised a schools competition in which teams from 5 schools created a DVD setting out their business case for re-opening the line. This is the winning entry:
SENRUG are currently in the process of holding a series of community meetings in which they set out all their campaign objectives, including the Ashington Blyth & Tyne re-opening. The next will be at Seghill Community Centre on Monday 26th October at 7:30 pm.
Northumberland County Council press release
Ashington Blyth and Tyne campaign