The government has moved to end uncertainty over plans for the Northumberland rail line which it was feared could have meant axing one of its six stations.
Doubt arose when ministers ordered cutbacks to the line, only months after announcing funds to start preparatory work, according to a report in The Journal.
The news came less than three months after ministers announced £34m for the scheme and less than one month after North of Tyne Combined Authority discussed ambitious plans for an economic growth corridor along the line.
The line, which closed to passengers in the 1960s but still carries freight, is due to re-open to passengers at the end of 2023.
New stations are planned at Ashington, Bedlington, Blyth Bebside, Newsham and Seaton Delaval, with a connection to the Tyne and Wear Metro at Northumberland Park.
But now a dispute has broken out over the future of the planned Bebside station. A report in ChronicleLive suggested the station was likely to be axed to save money. The paper reported it had seen an account of a private meeting between civil servants and council officials warning that removing Bebside from the scheme could cause ‘reputational damage’.
Four days later, however, this interpretation of events was disputed by the Conservative MP for Blyth Valley, Ian Levy, who was reported in the paper as saying that a standard-practice cost challenge exercise had been blown out of all proportion and no final decision had been taken.
Three days later the Rail Minister, Chris Heaton-Harris, joined in with an attempt to end the uncertainty: ‘We intend to deliver all six stations at the very start of the scheme’, he told The Journal on 24 April.
The Northumberland line runs through Blyth Valley constituency, one of the northern ‘red wall’ seats that fell to the Conservatives in the 2019 general election. There are hopes it will play a significant part in levelling up that part of the North East.