Northumberland County Council has put forward a strategic business case for reopening a passenger rail line between Newcastle and Ashington. The strategic outline business case was developed by a team from SLC Rail and AECOM. It outlines the project’s wider economic impacts such as housing and job opportunities and includes a number of alternative delivery and funding model options for reinstating the line.

Reinstating the Northumberland Line will involve upgrading an existing operational freight line to enable direct passenger services between south-east Northumberland and Newcastle Central. The proposal includes a number of new stations that will link towns to key areas of employment, training and leisure, which could boost the local economy by up to £70m.

The next step is to further develop the potential funding and delivery models and seek wider market engagement to develop a detailed outline business case and help attract the third-party public and private sector funding needed to accelerate delivery of the scheme. The team from SLC Rail and AECOM is providing technical consultancy, business case development, project management and modelling services for the scheme.

The detailed outline business case will also inform potential inclusion of the scheme within the North East Transforming Cities Fund submission, an initiative announced by government last year that will allocate funding to upgrade public transport links in city regions.

Ian Walters, Managing Director, SLC Rail said: “Government is now strongly encouraging councils to lead rail schemes themselves, with its ‘Rail Network Enhancements Pipeline’ process announced in 2018, and Network Rail’s ‘Open for Business’ initiative supporting this. The SLC Rail team has a 20-year history of enabling local authorities to deliver new rail services and stations, and we are delighted to be working with Northumberland County Council to progress re-opening of the Northumberland Line.”

Northumberland County Council aims to submit the outline business case for the scheme by the end of this year, with passenger services planned for 2022.