Ashington Re-opening: Late Monday night I got a call from a radio news station, wanting me to comment on an announcement about the Ashington re-opening that The DfT Transport Minister would be making next day. But the radio station wouldn’t show me the announcement as it was embargoed until the morning! I agreed nevertheless to make a few comments, but any hopes I had that this might be the big announcement were soon dashed when it transpired the DfT were only announcing £1.5m for Ashington! By the next day, with the DfT statement publicly available, and the Rail Minister also pre-announcing his own announcement re Ashington at an earlier event to unveil the supplier of the new Tyne & Wear Metro trains (Stadler of Switzerland) all became clear. This is simply funding to “further develop the proposal”. Further interviews followed with Radio Newcastle and the BBC web team in which I said that, at present, I don’t understand what further development is necessary, and we need to know how many more studies and reports there will need to be before someone writes out the big cheque.
In the same announcement the DfT promised £500m to reverse the Beeching cuts. But with the Ashington opening costing £90m for the slimmed down scheme, and that being for a re-opening of an existing freight line with the track already in place, it seems to me that at current Network Rail pricing levels, that’s only enough for 2 or 3 schemes at most. If we want a rail re-opening resurgence, Network Rail have got to work out how to deliver things cheaper!