What Is Proposed?
SENRUG’s proposal is for a new passenger railway between Newcastle and Woodhorn, along existing freight tracks, with intermediate stations at Northumberland Park (Metro Connection), Seghill, Seaton Delaval, Newsham for Blyth, Bebside, Bedlington and Ashington.
The scheme now being progressed by the local authority (Northumberland County Council) will be for a passenger railway from Newcastle to Ashington, including intermediate stations at Northumberland Park (Metro Connection), Seaton Delaval, Newsham for Blyth, Bebside (may be called "Blyth Bebside") and Bedlington, along with dualling part of the single-track section to permit a 30-minute service frequency.
SENRUG is delighted that an earlier plan to phase the re-opening and omit the stations at Seaton Delaval and Bebside initially has been dropped. However the line will not run beyond Ashington to start with - so Woodhorn will not be served, neither will it include a station at Seghill.
The Council are open to further extensions to Woodhorn and Newbiggin-By-The-Sea once the core route is up and running, but initially stated they did not see the case for a station at Seghill. SENRUG disputes this (for reasons please see The Case For A Station at Seghill), but agreed to wait until the line is actually opened and then ask the Council to revisit this. Now the date for the re-opening the core route is drawing closer, we understand the Council are willing to start the process of re-visiting whether a station at Seghill should be opened at a later stage.
South East Northumberland is a former mining area which suffered economically with the closure of the mines and has never fully recovered. Unemployment rates are significantly above the national average and the area is economically depressed with many of the jobs that do exist being part time and / or at minimum wage levels.
Re-opening the Ashington Blyth & Tyne line (The Northumberland Line) would regenerate region by providing access to employment in Newcastle and beyond, as well as places such as Cobalt Business Park served by the station at Northumberland Park. The line would connect areas of opportunity with areas of need.
Good transport connections including links to London, Leeds and Birmingham through connecting services at Newcastle would make the area more attractive for industry. People who already have jobs would find that Ashington and the other communities the line serves become attractive places to live due to easy commuting to Newcastle, and so would bring new money into the local economies.
SENRUG acknowledges that most households have access to a car; but in many households 2 or more people are looking for employment but there is only one car. Young people in particular can not normally afford their own transport and need good public transport links for work or college.
The line would essentially be a commuter railway and relieve growing road congestion on the A189 / A19 corridor. Additionally however the station at Woodhorn would create a leisure market and bringing visitors to the area from further afield, creating an off-peak flow which is a luxury few commuter lines enjoy.
As this is a fully operational working freight line, re-introduction of passenger services should be quite straightforward and much easier than other re-opening campaigns where new track would need to be laid.
However, the southern section of the line is single track, and to achieve the service frequencies SENRUG believes would be optimum (30 minutes during peak hours and hourly outside peaks), a dynamic passing loop would need to be built somewhere near Seghill, allowing trains to pass without slowing down.
The former stations at Northumberland Park, Seghill, Seaton Delaval, Newsham for Blyth, Bebside, Bedlington and Ashington would need to be re-built. These would be low cost, unstaffed stations without station buildings. Both of the original platforms remain in tact at Ashington, as does the southbound platform at Bedlington (there never was a northbound platform at Bedlington). Northumberland Park is a working Metro station but a platform and overbridge would be needed for the Network Rail line. A new station would be needed at Woodhorn.
However, the plan now being implemented by the Council will not use the existing platforms at Ashington but instead will see a new bay platform constructed. This is disappointing as it will make the station further away from the main road, shops and bus stops, as well as making subsequent extension to Woodhorn and Newbiggin, or to Alnmouth via the Butterwell line, more difficult. At Northumberland Park, a new footbridge is not being constructed, instead, passengers interchanging between The Northumberland line and Metro services will use the existing road overbridge (this section of the road is pedestrianised) which SENRUG believes is acceptable.
What’s Happened So Far?
Outline design work is complete, all necessary planning applications are in place and the Transport and Works act Order has been signed off. Additionally, in March 2023, the Secretary of State for Transport announced the final go-ahead and funding package, with an opening date of August 2024. Construction work is underway, and is visible at a number of sites along the route.
A full summary of the main events, both positive and setbacks, from when SENRUG started its campaign in 2005 to the present day can be seen here.
Pivotal moments in the campaign history were the 2008 SENRUG Charter Train round the line and the 2014 SENRUG Schools DVD Competition (to mark the 50th anniversary of the original withdrawal of passenger services in 1964).
After The Line is Re-Opened, What Then?
There are a number of enhancements and extensions to the core project currently being implemented, which is just the route from Newcastle to Ashington with intermediate stations at Northumberland Park, Seaton Delaval, Newsham, Bebside and Bedlington, that SENRUG are campaigning for. These are:
Bedlington - Choppington - Morpeth
Ashington - Woodhorn - Newbiggin
Ashington - Butterwell - Alnmouth
Additional station at Seghill
Newsham to Blyth Town Centre (as part of a new Airport to Blyth Metro route)
Clicking on the links above will take you to the dedicated campaign page for that extension or enhancement.
In 2014, SENRUG organised a competition amongst local schools who were asked to create a 7 – 10 minute DVD setting out their business case for re-opening the line. For more details and to see the schools’ entries, click here
SENRUG organised a charter train round the line in 2008. For information and photos on the 2008 Charter, click here.
For the history of the “Blyth and Tyne” line,