There have been a lot of positive noises recently regarding Bedlington once again having a railway station. The detailed consultation taking place is a part of that as is the £1m invested in site investigations by the County Council.
I am old enough to remember catching a train from Bedlington Station and talk about passenger rail services returning to Bedlington goes back decades. It is something I can certainly recall from the 1990s. The car was king in the three decades before that as more roads were built to accommodate the growth in ownership. However, it became clear that rail needed to be looked at again as congestion on the roads increased.
I did think that the Labour government elected in 1997 would have taken the opportunity to repay the faith of North East voters who returned 28 Labour MPs out of a total of 30: Wansbeck and Blyth Valley among them.
But it didn’t happen and the efforts of the then Wansbeck MP, Denis Murphy, were rebuffed time and time again. That one of Blair’s Transport Secretaries was a North Tyneside MP makes it even more surprising that no progress was made, and by 2010 when Denis Murphy stood down, the only passenger train that had chugged along the tracks was a special charter to see benefits that have yet to be realised.
Since then I have picked up on the odd muttering from the current Labour MP but nothing that convinced me that Bedlington would again have a railway station. Given that the end of the line is Ashington, I assumed that the tub thumping would be incessant and heard across Wansbeck from Cambois to Clifton.
But I do sense that a funding decision is now close. I took part in a visit from the previous Transport Secretary to Bedlington Station in 2019 along with my Independent colleagues, Councillor Robinson and Councillor Wallace. The current Transport Secretary has posted a video of support over the weekend.
I am not too concerned about who politically is due the credit and whether the current drilling of bore holes will have more impact than a conversation in a smoke-filled room 25 years ago. Bedlington as always is my only focus.
However, that it appears the funding will be confirmed under a Conservative County Council and by a Conservative Government must be one of the biggest ironies in Northumberland’s political history. A missed opportunity for Labour is a huge understatement in those circumstances.
Little wonder the town returned three Independents in 2017 to work with whichever party took control and to ensure a better Bedlington.