A major £794m investment package is set to reopen two important rail routes closed more than 50 years ago has been announced today (23 Jan) by Transport Secretary Grant Shapps.
The new funding includes £760m for the delivery of the next phase of East-West Rail, which will form 1,500 skilled jobs and reinstate direct rail services between Bicester and Bletchley for the first time since 1968.
The funding-package also includes £34m to significantly progress plans to reopen the Northumberland Line between Newcastle-upon-Tyne and Ashington, which closed to passengers in 1964 as part of the infamous Beeching cuts.
Mr Shapps has also called on local authorities, MPs and community groups to submit bids for a share of the third and final round of the Department for Transport's 'Ideas Fund', designed to encourage proposals to reopen railway lines, services and stations.
Today's announcements form part of the Government's commitments to build back better from the Covid-19 pandemic and level up transport infrastructure across the country by investing in rail connections that will unlock new housing and create jobs and opportunity.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: “Restoring railways helps put communities back on the map and this investment forms part of our nationwide effort to build back vital connections and unlock access to jobs, education and housing.
“Returning these routes to their former glory, and progressing work to reopen even more lines and stations, shows our commitment to levelling up journeys across the country as we build back better from the pandemic.”
Simon Blanchflower, Chief Executive Officer at East West Railway Company, said: “We are delighted that the Government has shown a big commitment to East-West Rail and the Oxford Cambridge Arc with today’s investment decision. This funding will enable us to get on with the construction work that will connect communities who live on the East-West Rail link.
“We are committed to improving connectivity across the Oxford-Cambridge Arc and fully recognise our responsibility to ensure that it is delivered in a way that minimises disruption, supports the regional economy, maximises benefits and supports jobs across the region.”
Northumberland County Council Leader Glen Sanderson said: "This is absolutely fantastic news and means we can now finalise our plans to deliver this transformational project for both Northumberland and the wider region.
"The Northumberland Line will bring a huge boost to the area in terms of economic growth, housing, employment and education opportunities, as well as providing a fast and efficient new transport link between the south-east of the county and Tyneside."