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Signals are good for return of passenger trains

The return of passenger rail services on the Northumberland Line has moved another step closer following the completion of major signalling and level crossing work. 

Photos courtesy of Ontrackimages

The rail line, set to open in Summer this year, is set to transform accessibility to employment, training and leisure for residents in south east Northumberland, as well as opening up a raft of new opportunities for education and travel.  

The Easter period has seen major track upgrades in Bedlington, with teams working 24 hours a day over a pre-agreed period in which no freight trains were using the track. 

Signalling has now gone live at the northern end of the line (from Bedlington to Ashington), and it is now controlled from the Tyneside Integrated Electronic Control Centre (IECC), where the signallers will be based.   

The signalling at the southern end of the line from Benton Junction to Bedlington will go live in late May, with freight trains currently diverted via Morpeth whilst the work takes place. 

Around 350m of track has been replaced between Bedlington North and Bedlington South level crossings, points replaced and a new level crossings installed at Bedlington North, Green Lane, North Seaton and Marcheys House. 

This latest track and signalling work was a critical part of the scheme to allow passenger trains to run to the Line’s start/end station in Ashington. 

Elsewhere, construction work is continuing at pace, with Ashington Station almost complete, a new road bridge nearing completion at Newsham and a 160 tonne crawler crane in place at Northumberland Park ahead of the next stage of station construction works.  

Driver route learning is also set to start in June. 

Council Leader Glen Sanderson said: “With each passing week we’re getting near to passenger services running again and this has been a major part of track work, with teams working round the clock to sort the new signalling and track. 

“This is about so much more than a new rail service, it’s about opening up new opportunities for the county, the region and even the country and it is fantastic to be reaching these key stages as we head towards opening.” 

Rail Minister Huw Merriman said: “The Northumberland Line will bring transformational benefits to communities across the North East for generations to come, providing thousands of people with better access to jobs, education and leisure between Ashington and Newcastle. 

“It’s great that there is real momentum behind the project as we push on with the plan to deliver passenger services on the line this summer for the first time in almost 60 years – part of the Government’s plan to improve local transport across the country and create opportunities for local people.” 

David Ball, Senior Sponsor for Network Rail’s North & East route, said: “This is a major milestone for Network Rail’s work on the Northumberland Line and we are proud that we have been able to work to deliver completion of signalling on part of the line as well as upgrading track across the route. 

“Our teams will continue to work with our partners to deliver this vital work ahead of passenger trains running on the line from the summer.” 

Jason Wade, regional director for Northern, said: “We’re delighted with the progress that is being made on the Northumberland Line and this important signalling work will allow us to begin operating passenger services from Ashington this summer.  

“We are busy preparing for the reopening of this rail line and our train crews are due to begin route learning in June. 

“This is an exciting opportunity to connect communities in the North East, making it quick and affordable for customers to travel between Newcastle and Northumberland.”  


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