What Is Proposed?
The Carlisle – Newcastle – Morpeth local service provided by Northern Trains should be extended beyond Morpeth, along the existing freight tracks, already cleared for passenger services and a diversionary route for long-distance trains such as LNER Azumas, to a new station at Choppington (where the line crosses the A1068 road) and then to Bedlington, connecting with Newcastle – Ashington trains on the Northumberland Line (Ashington Blyth & Tyne Line).
The new service would link Bedlington Station with Morpeth in 10 minutes, rather than the 28 minutes by bus. It would give Morpeth passengers a rail link to Northumberland Park and Ashington (and vice versa) by changing at Bedlington. The new station at Choppington would facilitate the regeneration of the Choppington and Scotland Gate area which includes some of the most economically disadvantaged Lower Super Economic Output Areas (LSOAs) in the whole of Northumberland and indeed in England.
The service would also give Bedlington Station a direct link to Cramlington, for access to jobs, shops and medical facilities. The previously hourly bus service between Bedlington station and Cramlington was withdrawn in Spring 2022.
The new service between Morpeth and Bedlington could be provided as soon as the platforms at Bedlington are built as part of the Northumberland Line opening, and train crews given the requisite route knowledge.
The March 2007 Study instigated by the former North East Assembly calculated the run time from Morpeth to Bedlington to be 10 minutes each way, including an allowance for the stop at Choppington. Overall, 30 minutes was allowed in the indicative timetables from departure at Morpeth towards Bedlington, and departure from Morpeth towards Newcastle on the return service from Bedlington, including 10 minutes waiting time at Bedlington. In the 2022 operational timetable, for most of the day, the Carlisle to Morpeth trains sit idle in the Morpeth siding for between 36 and 46 minutes, thus could easily run on to Bedlington and back within this time. However, timetable amendments would be required for the first and last trains of the day that terminate at Morpeth, where the layover time at Morpeth is currently less than 30 minutes.
In the longer term, SENRUG recommends the stretch of track from one of the platforms at Bedlington station to the point where the double track towards Choppington reduces to single (a distance of some 630 meters) is bi-directional signalled, so that trains from Morpeth and Choppington could run onto a platform then reverse directly back to Morpeth, without needing to cross Bedlington South Level Crossing, into the reversing siding, then back onto the other platform. This would save 2 level crossing closures for each train movement (ie 2 level crossing closures per hour).