Another milestone on the Northumberland Line rail project has been reached after the first sections of track were replaced.
Network Rail have completed work to renew a section of track in Newsham in preparation for the pioneering project to reopen - the first physical piece of work on the project to reintroduce a regular rail passenger service between Ashington and Newcastle.
The line was closed to passengers in 1964 as part of the Beeching cuts and the essential work involved renewing 600 yards of rails and componentry, which had been used exclusively by freight trains for many years.
Network Rail were able to start early work after the Department for Transport provided £34 million from the Restoring Your Railway fund towards the project in January 2021, with further funding set to be announced once the final designs are approved.
Working in partnership with Network Rail, Northern and the Department for Transport, the transformational project aims to stimulate and support economic growth, regeneration and community development in Northumberland and the surrounding regions.
The project will provide new and improved transport links for passengers by upgrading 18 miles of track and signalling, opening six new stations and three new footbridges. The Northumberland line scheme is on track to welcome the return of passenger trains by 2024.
Northumberland County Council Deputy Leader, Councillor Richard Wearmouth, said: “It is a great milestone to finally see work to return passenger services physically happening on the line.
“While there’s so much going on behind the scenes, the progress feels more tangible when you can actually see it on the ground and this is an exciting time for everyone involved.
“We’re looking forward to the scheme continuing at pace as we work towards services starting by 2024.”
David Underwood, Senior Programme Manager for Network Rail’s North and East route, said: “It’s amazing to see work to reopen the Northumberland line finally begin. This is a promising first step in an ambitious project which will revitalise rail in the area and see regular passenger services return.
“Once complete, the new line will provide the people of Northumberland with access to new opportunities and connect the communities along the line. Throughout the project, we’re planning to use local labour and engage with local businesses where possible.”