CONTROVERSED proposals to create a new railway between Consett and Newcastle costing more than half a billion pounds have been submitted to the government.
Supporters say the ambitious project, which could take decades to materialize, will connect isolated communities via a new station in Consett and boost the local economy in County Durham.
But options include laying tracks on disused railway tracks now used as popular recreational routes such as the Derwent Walk or the Coast to Coast cycle path through Stanley.
A feasibility study was completed and Durham County Council submitted a Strategic Business Case (SOBC) to the Department of Transportation.
The plan championed by North-West Durham MP Richard Holden was dismissed by neighboring North Durham MP Kevan Jones as “a costly public relations stunt”.
North Durham MP Kevan Jones
Mr Jones said: ‘Consultants estimate that a proposed railway line to Consett will cost £ 675million, while the total national government funding is only £ 500million.
“There is a better chance of spotting unicorns in North Durham than the government will find funding for this fantastic project.
“This is a costly political publicity stunt by Durham County Council and Richard Holden.
“The only people who will benefit are highly paid consultants, writing expensive reports that will sit on a shelf.
“Any funding would be better used to reopen the Leamside line or improve the bus services that many of my constituents rely on.
“Hopefully Santa Claus brings Richard Holden a calculator for Christmas, because it looks like he can’t do basic math.”
An online campaign group opposed to the creation of a transport link on the Derwent Walk has more than 6,000 members and nearly 25,000 signatures have been collected on a petition denouncing the project.
The Derwent promenade
The 12-mile promenade, formerly the Derwent Valley Railway, which opened in 1867 but was closed in 1962 under Beeching’s Cuts, is popular with dog walkers, hikers, cyclists and horse riders.
It is also a refuge for wildlife and opponents argue that the development would destroy the natural habitat of creatures such as red kite, green woodpecker and great woodpecker, nuthatch, hawk and lark as well as foxes, deer and badgers.
Blaydon MP Liz Twist said: “This decision to go ahead with a business case for a railway line through the Derwent Walk makes no financial or practical sense whatsoever.
“This ignores the huge opposition to the proposal in my constituency, which has seen an online petition from residents reach over 24,000 signatures.
“Durham County Council’s own assessment of the project shows the immense cost of reestablishing the line and yet it has chosen to spend even more money to continue work on the proposal.
“I support the need for better transport links, but trying to recreate the past is not the answer. What we need are improved, achievable, regular and high quality bus services along this route which could be done at a much lower cost with immediate effect with the right support from the government. ”
Blaydon MP Liz Twist
Ms Twist said: “The Derwent Walk Country Park is extremely popular and used by so many people throughout its length.
“There are enormous physical and mental health benefits to having this fantastic country park at our disposal and it would be a huge mistake to do anything that damages this beautiful country park.
“I will continue to work with those who oppose this plan.”
The alternative route considered is the Sustrans route through Annfield Plain and Stanley, which would connect Newcastle via the East Coast Main Line.
The business case indicates that establishing a new railway line between Consett and Newcastle would improve access to opportunities in the wider North East area, reduce the environmental impacts of existing road traffic and improve traffic flow. air quality.
Richard Holden said: “For decades we have seen services shut down from the towns and villages of northwest Durham.
“It is time for that to change.
“When I was elected, I promised that I would campaign for improved bus links, cycling and walking access, and fixed public transport links between Consett and Tyne, as well as to connect Crook and Weardale in Darlington.
“I am delighted that by working with Durham County Council we have now received feasibility financial support for the two major transportation projects.
“I fully support the business case submitted and look forward to working with City Council to campaign for the next steps in this plan to improve local transportation.
“Residents of towns and villages in northwest Durham deserve the same opportunity as those in any other part of the country to access career and education opportunities.
“I will continue to campaign for greater opportunity for everyone in Northwest Durham.”
Richard Holden MP (left), with Cllr Richard Bell, deputy head of Durham County Council and member of the finance cabinet, on the site of the old Consett station
According to the proposals, a new station would be built at Consett along with other additional intermediate stations along different route options.
The business case will now be evaluated by the Ministry of Transportation, who will decide whether it will be subject to a detailed evaluation.
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Councilor Richard Bell, deputy head of Durham County Council and cabinet member for finance, said: ‘Plans to reopen rail service at Consett are in their infancy and at an exploratory stage, but the conclusions of our initial research is very positive.
“If implemented successfully, the program would lead to major improvements in connectivity between Consett and the wider North East region, opening up the area to residents, businesses and visitors.
“Projections show that up to three million annual trips could be made, from a potential station in Consett and other stations along Annfield Plain and the Stanley Corridor.
“A new line would act as a catalyst to accelerate investments in the local area, helping to reduce levels of deprivation by providing better access to higher value-added jobs and promoting the area as a fantastic place. to live and work. ”
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