Past, present & future: The rail heritage of Tees Valley

Source: RTM Aug/Sept 2018

Two centuries ago, the world’s first public railway to use steam locomotives was officially opened at the heart of the north east. Fast-forward to 2018 and the rich transport heritage of the area continues to prosper. Ben Houchen, the Tees Valley mayor and chairman of the Tees Valley Combined Authority, outlines his plans for an equally bright future.

Tees Valley’s pioneering spirit was felt most powerfully almost 200 years ago, thanks to the birth of the Stockton and Darlington Railway – and, with it, the world’s first passenger services.

We are set to mark the bicentenary of our rich transport heritage with a programme of celebrations. There is no better time to take stock, see how much we have achieved, and consider how to honour our innovators by keeping our region moving for years to come.

Darlington railway station will not only be central to these celebrations, but its transformation will also be vital to improving people’s lives and central to growth. It is forecast to deliver almost £1bn of GVA for the regional economy, create more than 3,000 jobs, and facilitate the delivery of up to 1,500 houses.

It will ensure we remain at the forefront of the UK’s Northern Powerhouse project. In the coming years, HS2 will give the country’s Victorian rail network a new lease of life, and we have to position ourselves to take advantage of every opportunity.

Darlington station is the gateway to Tees Valley, serving the East Coast Main Line (ECML) between London and Edinburgh. This, plus its wider catchment from the north east and North Yorkshire, makes it a hugely important station – but it needs to be made fit for purpose.

Our £100m regeneration scheme, ‘Darlington 2025,’ would help us build on what we already have. It would see a reconfiguration of platforms to separate local and more strategic services, with extra platforms ensuring that local services do not have to cross the ECML to enter the station. This will contribute to securing the station’s future by providing extra capacity to ensure the area is ready for new train services provided by HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail (NPR), as well as welcoming the new Class 800 Azuma trains.

These changes will lead to faster, more frequent and better-quality services to and from, as well as across, the Tees Valley. Times between Birmingham and Darlington could be cut by 52 minutes and trips to London could come in at one hour and 52 minutes. NPR, too, will radically change connectivity between key economic centres of the north.

Regeneration of the station’s surrounding area will give visitors a welcome that matches the region’s aspirations, with new shops, public spaces, and improved connections to key sites around the town.

We’ve made a £3m funding commitment which will help us produce a fully developed business case for submission to government. On top of this, I have earmarked £25m from our £59m Transforming Cities Fund, a product of our devolved status.

This is one transport priority that I have been committed to, but it is not the only rail infrastructure project we are undertaking. We also signed off a £4.5m fund, including £2m from Network Rail, to help bring Middlesbrough station – our region’s second-biggest station – into the 21st century.

It’s not as eye-catching, but Network Rail and I have also recently signed off £1m of funding for a study to improve the region’s rail freight network.

The cash will help to resolve issues between Eaglescliffe to Northallerton branch of the ECML, where low bridges and tunnels currently restrict the size of cargo containers that can be used. The line carries containers between Felixstowe and Teesport, one of the UK’s deepest ports and a vital piece of our business landscape.

My job is to drive economic regeneration in Tees Valley, whether through securing business investment, encouraging visitor numbers to boost the tourist pound, or helping companies based here to grow. The benefits that will come from the transformation of our rail network will be felt across our whole area, the wider north east and, indeed, the whole of the UK.

Rail is deep-rooted in our past and, with these plans, it will certainly be at the heart of our future.


Enjoying RTM? Subscribe here to receive our weekly news updates or click here to receive a copy of the magazine!


There are no comments. Why not be the first?

Add your comment



rail technology magazine tv

more videos >

latest rail news

View all News

rail industry focus

editor's comment

23/01/2018Out with the old...

Despite a few disappointing policy announcements, especially for the electrification aficionados amongst us, 2017 was, like Darren Caplan writes on page 20, a year generally marked by positive news for the rail industry. We polished off the iconic Ordsall Chord (p32), hit some solid milestones on Thameslink (p40), progressed on ambitious rolling stock orders (p16), and finally started moving forward on HS2 (p14) ‒ paving the way for a New Year with brand-new infrastructrure to... read more >

last word

Encouraging youngsters to be safe on the railway

Encouraging youngsters to be safe on the railway

This summer, Arriva Group's CrossCountry and the Scout Association joined to launch a new partnership to promote rail safety among young people. Chris Leech MBE, business community manager at the TOC, gives RTM an update on the innovative scheme. Recognising that young people are more likely to take a risk trespassing on railway tracks, C... more > more last word articles >

'the sleepers' daily blog

Maximising efficiency requires investment in data, but it’s rewards for rail could be extensive

14/11/2019Maximising efficiency requires investment in data, but it’s rewards for rail could be extensive

Rail Technology Magazine’s Matt Roberts explains the significant role data can play within the future development of the rail industry. Standing as a cornerstone of the UK transport network, the rail industry is forever striving to innovate and maximise efficiency in all aspects of its work. Data is just one such way of achievi... more >
read more blog posts from 'the sleeper' >


Andrew Haines, CE of Network Rail, tells BBC News his organisation could issue future rail franchises

24/06/2019Andrew Haines, CE of Network Rail, tells BBC News his organisation could issue future rail franchises

Andrew Haines, the Chief Executive of Network Rail, has told the Today programme on Radio 4's BBC’s flagship news programme that he wo... more >
Advancing the rail industry with management degree apprenticeships

08/05/2019Advancing the rail industry with management degree apprenticeships

In answering the pressing questions of how current and future generations of managers can provide solutions to high-profile infrastructure projec... more >
Women in rail - is the industry on the right track?

12/03/2019Women in rail - is the industry on the right track?

RTM sits down with Samantha Smith, sole female member of the TransPennine Route Upgrade Alliance Leadership Team, to find out more about encourag... more >
TfN Strategic Transport Plan: not just for transport's sake

22/01/2019TfN Strategic Transport Plan: not just for transport's sake

Peter Molyneux, Transport for the North’s (TfN’s) strategic roads director, has been leading on the development of the seven economic... more >