Assurances have been given that the proposed phased approach to a new passenger rail line in south-east Northumberland will not leave any towns out.
Transport Secretary Chris Grayling recently visited the county to take a ride along part of the route and hear more about the £190million plans for what's now being called the Northumberland line, linking Ashington to Newcastle Central via Bedlington and Blyth.
It came as county councillors signed off on approximately £3.46m of spending to develop the next steps, with the aim of submitting an outline business case and proposal for the detailed design by the end of the year, and services planned to start in 2022.
During Mr Grayling's visit, council leader Peter Jackson said that while the total cost of the project is estimated to be £190m, it can be broken down into phases with a £90m first phase being 'perfectly achievable' given the 'billions being spent on HS2 and other projects in the south of England'.
This sparked questions from Labour councillors, who were concerned that the line will only be part-opened, but the Conservative leadership has now offered assurances that the phasing would simply hold back some of the infrastructure work and trains would still run all the way to Ashington.
Coun Deirdre Campbell, the Labour member for the Newsham ward through which the line will run, had described it as 'extremely concerning news', suggesting that perhaps the reason behind the dropping of the long-established Ashington, Blyth & Tyne name was 'because the supposed phasing the council leader refers to means it will not reach Blyth, never mind Bedlington or Ashington'.
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