Network Rail has completed work to renew a section of track in Newsham, as part of a project to reopen the Northumberland line and transform services in the North East.
Completing the works in Newsham represented a major milestone in the project, as the first physical piece of work completed on the project, which will see the reintroduction of a regular rail passenger service between Ashington and Newcastle.
The original line was closed to passengers in 1964 as part of the Beeching cuts.
Network Rail had to carry out renewal works on 600 yards of rails and componentry to ready the track at Newsham, which had previously been used exclusively by freight trains for many years.
The Northumberland line reopening project aims to see the return of passenger trains to the line by 2024.
A £34m funding package from the Department of Transport in January 2021, as part of the Restoring Your Railway fund, allowed Network Rail to commence the work early.
Further funding is set to be announced once the final designs are approved.
The project has seen Network Rail work in partnership with Northumberland County Council, Northern and the Department for Transport. It is hoped that the transformational project can help stimulate and support local economic growth, regeneration and community development in Northumberland and the surrounding regions.
Across the length of the project, 18 miles of track and signalling will be upgraded, six new stations opened and three new footbridges installed.
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.”
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.”