I was surprised and disheartened to read in todays Chronicle Online that the DfT has ordered County officials to make savings to the Northumberland Line project, and as a result Bebside station might now be dropped. This of course is just a few months after Bebside and Seaton Delaval were re-instated from an earlier plan to deliver the line in 2 stages.
Yes of course the cost of the Northumberland Line project needs to be scrutinised and reduced where possible – SENRUG has long said that Network Rail’s costs are way too high. But costs need to be reduced without decreasing functionality or specification. We’ve already criticised the design of the station at Bebside which seems to be focussed around the needs of car users rather than those walking to the station or going by bus. Perhaps the simpler designs submitted by SENRUG for a station much closer to the main road, disregarded by the Council’s consultants, would have worked out considerably cheaper. We certainly think so.
It’s also worth also going back to the DfT’s own Press Release of 23rd January 2021, announcing the funding decision of that date. £794m in total, comprising £760m for the East-West Rail Link between Bicester and Bletchley, yet just £34m of the estimated £166m required in total for the Northumberland Line. If that represents the government’s desire to “level up” with regard to investment in the north, there is still a long way to go! Let’s hope this crazy decision can soon be reversed and we’ll soon be back to full steam ahead!