The Anonymous Widower

Boris Johnson Backs Station Opening Which Could See Metro Link To County Durham

The title of this post, is the same as that of this article on the Sunderland Echo.

The article has this sub-title.

The Prime Minister has backed calls for a new railway station in County Durham which could also be linked to the Tyne and Wear Metro.

This all came out in Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday, where Boris said it was his ambition to see a line opened to the former Ferryhill station, which is nine miles South of Durham.

There has been talk of reopening the Leamside Line, as both a route for the Tyne and Wear Metro and as a diversion for the East Coast Main Line (ECML).

New Rolling Stock For The Tyne And Wear Metro

Stadler are building new rolling stock for the Tyne and Wear Metro, which will be dual-voltage.

  • Able to work on the Metro’s 1500 VDC.
  • Able to work on the national 25 KVAC.
  • In addition like Merseyrail’s closely-related Class 777 trains, they could have a battery capability.

Pelaw And The Leamside Line

The Leamside Line leaves the Durham Coast Line near to Pelaw station on the Metro.

This Google Map shows Pelaw station and the rail lines in the area.

Note.

  1. Pelaw station on the Western edge of the map marked by a blue M.
  2. The Durham Coast Line running East-West across the map.
  3. The tracks going North from the junction in the middle of the map are the Tyne and Wear Metro to South Shields station and a freight line to Jarrow.
  4. At the Eastern edge of the map, Pelaw Metro Junction can be seen, where the Metro and the Durham Coast Line join to continue through Sunderland to their respective terminals.
  5. The Leamside Line can be picked out running from the major junction in the middle to the South East corner of the map.

This second Google Map shows an enlarged view of the Pelaw Metro Junction.

It appears to be a flying junction of the highest class, despite being built in the days of cash-strapped British Rail. Note the two outside Metro lines with their electrification merging with the central Durham Coast Lines, that have no electrification.

  • The route is electrified using the Metro’s 1500 VDC overhead system from here until the Metro branches off to South Hylton station.
  • The Metro and the other trains through the area, use a version of the Karlsruhe model for the signalling, so effectively, the Metro is running as a tram-train.

When the Metro has received the new Stadler trains, it will be possible to electrify the Durham Coast Line at 25 KVAC, which would allow the following.

  • Metro trains could run all the way to Middlesbrough, using their dual-voltage capability.
  • Metro trains could also run directly into Newcastle station, using the Durham Coast Line.

Voltage changeover would take place in Pelaw station.

Pelaw And Washington

The route of the Leamside Line South from Pelaw to Washington is more or less intact, although it does look in need of tender loving case.

This Google Map shows the section through Follingsby, where there used to be a Freightliner terminal.

Note.

  1. The whole area, including a former opencast coal time, is being developed.
  2. Amazon are building a fulfilment centre on the site of the Freightliner terminal.
  3. The Leamside Line runs North-South through the complex road junction at the top of the map.

This second Google Map shows the area South of the previous one and shows the Leamside Line as it passes to the West of the Nissan plant at Sunderland.

Note.

  1. The Leamside Line runs down the Western side of the map.
  2. The Nissan plant to the East, with a sausage =shaped feature in the South-West corner of the site.
  3. North of the Nissan plant an area has been earmarked for the International Advanced Manufacturing Park, which is currently the site of the NHS Nightingale Hospital NE.

It would appear discussions are underway to connect the Advanced Manufacturing Park to the Metro. But surely, with all the development alongside the line, there must be a need for perhaps three stations between Nissan and Prlaw.

This third Google Map shows Washington and its position with respect to the Nissan plant.

Note.

  1. The Nissan plant is to the North-East of this map and the sausage-shaped feature can just be seen.
  2. The Leamside Line goes North-South through the area and crosses the A1231 road, midway between the two complex junctions.
  3. The housing of the town of Washington in the South-West corner of the map.

There will surely be scope to put more than one station in the town of Washington, if the Leamside Line were to be reopened to passenger trains.

South From Washington

I will now continue South from Washington

The Victoria Viaduct

Going South from Washington, the Leamside Line has to cross the River Wear and it does that in spectacular fashion over the Grade II* Listed Victoria Viaduct.

This Google Map shows the crossing.

Note.

  1. Network Rail have maintained the viaduct since it was mothballed in 1991.
  2. It used to carry a double-track railway.
  3. The viaduct must have handled an occasional InterCity125.

I would be very surprised if a restored Victoria Viaduct couldn’t handle a five-car Class 800 train or similar.

Penshaw Station

The first station on the Leamside Line to the South of the viaduct, used to be Penshaw station.

This Google Map shows the village of Penshaw.

Note.

  1. Station Road curving around the South-West corner of the map.
  2. The Leamside Line crossing this road and running North-South.

I would expect a station could be built there, without too much difficulty.

Fencehouses Station

The next station to the South was Fencehouses station.

This Google Map shows the location of the station.

Note.

  1. The A1052 Road named Station Avenue North passing through the village.
  2. The former track of the railway passing North-South.
  3. According to Wikipedia, there used to be a level crossing at the station.

As with Penshaw station, I suspect a station could be built here fairly easily.

Leamside Station

The next station was Leamside station, which served the villages of Leamside and West Rainton.

This Google Map shows the station.

Note.

  1. The Leamside Line runs North-South in the middle of the map.
  2. Station Road can be picked out crossing the railway.
  3. Leamside is to the West of the Leamside Line.
  4. West Rainton is to the East of the Leamside Line.

It looks to be another station, that can be rebuilt without difficulty.

A Choice Of Routes At Belmont

The next station coming South on the Leamside Line used to be Belmont station.

This Google Map shows the site of the original station.

Note.

  1. The area is dominated by the two major roads; the A1(M) and the A690.
  2. In the vee of the roads, the Belmont Park-and-Ride site for Durham City is situated.
  3. The Leamside Line passes to the East of the Park-and-Ride.
  4. It appears that there is already a bridge to carry the Leamside Line over the A690.

There used to be a direct line between Belmont and Durham Gilesgate stations and the remains of the track-bed can be picked out, as it passes to the North of the Park-and-Ride.

There must surely be possibilities for some innovative thinking to connect Belmont, Durham, Newcastle and Washington.

But a simple station at the Park-And-Ride could be the best!

  • Travellers living along the Leamside Line could use the buses at the Park-and-Ride to get to Durham City.
  • The station would become a Parkway station for travellers going to Gateshead, Newcastle, Sunderland, Washington and anywhere on the Tyne and Wear Metro.

There would appear to be space for more parking, if that were to be needed.

An Alternative Direct Route Between the Leamside Line and the East Coast Main Line.

This Google Map shows the Leamside Line to the North of Belmont and the area to the West of the Line.

Note.

  1. The A1 (M) running North-South.
  2. The Leamside Line running North-South to the East of the motorway.
  3. The Grade II Listed Belmont Railway Viaduct marked by a blue arrow crossing the River Wear.

The remains of the trackbed of a railway can be picked out between the Leamside Line and the Belmont Railway Viaduct.

This second Google Map shows the area between the Belmont Railway Viaduct and the ECML.

Note.

  1. HM Prison Frankland at the top of the map.
  2. The ECML running down the West side of the map.
  3. The Belmont Railway Viaduct in the South-East corner of the map.

The trackbed between the ECML and the railway viaduct can be picked out.

Could The Line Over The Belmont Railway Viaduct Be Rebuilt To Create A Route Between Durham And Newcastle?

  • Looking, where the railway would need to cross the A1 (M), if appears that no provision was made for a underpass or bridge, when the motorway was built, so building one would be expensive and very disruptive.
  • Creating a flying junction to connect the new line to the ECML would be another expensive and disruptive project.
  • What is the condition of the Belmont Railway Viaduct?
  • Would it be better to build an interchange station at the Belmont Park-And-Ride?

I feel that it would be unlikely that this route will be rebuilt.

South From Belmont

I will now continue South from Belmont station.

Shincliffe Station

The next station going South was Shincliffe station.

This Google Map shows the village of Shincliffe.

Note.

  1. The A177 road running NW-SE across the map.
  2. The Leamside Line running SW-NE across the map.
  3. The original station was where was road and railway crossed.

The Leamside Line continues South to Tursdale Junction, where it joins the ECML.

This Google Map shows Tursdale Junction.

 

Note.

  1. Ferryhll is to the South.
  2. The ECML runs North to Durham and Newcastle in a slightly North-Westerly direction.
  3. The Leamside Line goes to Washington in a Northerly direction.

This second Google Map shows the ECML through Ferryhill.

Note.

  1. The sand quarries opposite the village, that are planned to be used for landfill.
  2. The ECML runs North-South between the village and the quarries.
  3. There are two railways going South from Ferryhill.
  4. The ECML goes South to Darlington, York and beyond.
  5. The Shillington Railway goes South-East to Stockton and Hartlepool.

The Campaign for Better Transport have given a high priority for reopening passenger services between Ferryhill and Stockton.

Thoughts On The Reopening Of Ferryhill Station

The closing of routes linking to Ferryhill station seems to have been almost a continuous process.

  • Coxhoe – 1902
  • Byers Green Branch beyond Spennymoor – 1939
  • Leamside Line – 1941
  • Spennymoor – 1952
  • Stockton – 1952
  • Harlepool – 1952

Beeching finally put the station out of its misery in 1963

But things are different now!

  • We need to build lots of new houses all over the country. And they need transport connections!
  • We need to cut our carbon emissions.
  • Roads are getting more crowded and we need to provide alternative reliable public transport.
  • We need to load our weapons against COVID-19.

I feel with detailed planning, a well-designed station at Ferryhill could be an asset to the North East.

These are a few thoughts.

The Leamside Line Will Be An Important Route

The route between Pelaw and Ferryhill stations will be just over twenty miles long.

  • It could be easily be run with the new Metro trains.
  • Trains could stop at perhaps seven or eight intermediate stations.
  • I estimate a journey could take about an hour.
  • South Hylton station supports at least four trains per hour (tph)
  • Four tph would need eight trains.
  • Trains could stop at Belmont Park-and-Ride for a frequent bus service to Durham City.
  • Washington might be able to support two stations.

It would certainly be a service that would fit in with the philosophy of the Metro.

Would The Leamside Line Be Electrified?

Unless the Metro trains were to be fitted with batteries, it would need to be electrified.

Either 1500 VDC or 25 KVAC could be used!

If the Durham Coast Line and the Leamside Line were to both be electrified with 25 KVAC, the following would be possible.

  • Metro trains could go to Newcastle station.
  • Other electric trains could use the Leamside Line as a diversion.
  • Electric freight trains could use the Leamside Line.

On the other hand, the Leamside Line would be ideal for partial electrification.

  • Merseyrail’s Class 777 trains are to be fitted with batteries and these trains are closely-related to the Tyne and Wear Metro’s new trains.
  • Relaying new track on the existing track bed, is not going to be the expensive part of the project.
  • Electrification between Pelaw and Washington would be easy, using the 1500 VDC overhead system of the Metro.
  • There may be problems from the Heritage lobby, about electrification on the Victoria Viaduct.
  • Ferryhill station would be electrified as it is on the ECML.

Trains could run the sixteen or so miles between Washington and Ferryhill stations on battery power.

The Ferryhill And Hartlepool Line Could Be A Useful Passenger Route

The route between Ferryhill and Hartlepool stations will be around twenty miles long.

  • There could be new stations at Sedgefield, Stillington and Stockton.
  • The route is double-track throughout.
  • The route joins the Durham Coast Line at Billingham.
  • It must open up possibilities for business and leisure travel.

The Government and local politicians must see a future for the railways in the area, as Horden station, which is next to Hartlepool station, is reopening.

Perhaps, there are plans for a train to leave Newcastle and take this route.

  • Newcastle to Ferryhill via the Leamside Line.
  • Ferryhill to Hartlepool.
  • Hartlepool to Newcastle via the Durham Coast Line.

Running hourly, it would connect a lot of towns with unemployment to those, where jobs are being created.

Would The Ferryhill and Hartlepool Line Be Electrified?

This route would surely only be electrified, when other lines in the area were similarly enhanced.

Electrification would not be a bad idea.

  • It would allow the new Tyne and Wear Metro trains to invade Teesside.
  • A Teesside Metro could be developed, that was electric-hauled, which would use the same trains as the Tyne and Wear Metro.
  • Some of the many freight trains starting or finishing in the area could be electric-hauled.
  • LNER and TransPennine Express could use their bi-mode trains in electric mode to Teesside.

There could be a zero-carbon alternative, as plans for hydrogen trains on Teesside seem well advanced, as I wrote about in Fuelling The Change On Teesside Rails.

Also in Northern’s Hydrogen Plans, I published this extract from an article in the March 2020 Edition of Modern Railways.

Northern has submitted planning documents, with the preferred site for a maintenance and fuelling facility understood to be at Lackenby. As hydrogen units would have a more limited operating range than DMUs (around 600 miles), they would likely need to return to the depot every night. Northern believes the routes radiating from Middlesbrough to Nunthorpe, Bishop Auckland and Saltburn are ideal candidates for the operation, as they are unlikely to be electrified and can be operated as a self contained network using hydrogen trains. A fleet of around a dozen Breeze units is planned, with the possibility they could also operate services to Whitby and on the Durham Coast Line to Newcastle. Planning documentation suggested the first hydrogen train would be ready for testing in June 2021, but this was based on construction of the depot facility beginning in January this year.

If they were to use these trains to Ferryhill, some extra stations would be needed.

Will Trains On The East Coast Main Line Stop At Ferryhill Station?

I can’t see why not!

Services between York and Newcastle call at the following stations.

  1. CrossCountry – Plymouth and Edinburgh calls at York, Darlington, Durham and Newcastle
  2. CrossCountry – Reading and Newcastle calls at York, Darlington, Durham and Newcastle
  3. LNER – London and Edinburgh calls at York, Darlington and Newcastle
  4. LNER – London and Edinburgh calls at York, Northallerton, Darlington, Durham and Newcastle
  5. TransPennine Express – Liverpool and Edinburgh calls at York, Darlington, Durham and Newcastle
  6. TransPennine Express – Manchester Airport and Newcastle calls at York, Northallerton, Darlington, Durham, Chester-le-Street and Newcastle

I suspect that with a small amount of adjustment two tph could call at Ferryhill

  • If train 3 stopped, this would give a connection to London and Edinburgh
  • If train 6 stopped, this would give a connection to Manchester Airport

For many stations, which could connect to Ferryhill station in the future, the station might offer the quickest and most convenient route for travellers.

Could Some Of The Old Branches From Ferryhill Be Reopened?

There were a lot of branches from the Ferryhill area to neighbouring villages, because of all the coal mines in the area.

So could some of these branches be reopened, if say there were housing or commercial developments.

This Google Map shows the ECL about a mile North of the site of Ferryhill station.

Note.

  1. The ECML going North-South just to the East of the centre of the map.
  2. Ferryhill station is to the South.
  3. On the Western side of the map, there is the remains of a triangular junction, which used to connect Byers Green and Spennymoor stations on the Byers Green Branch to Ferryhill.
  4. On the Eastern  side of the map, there is a scar, which was the trackbed to Cuxhoe station.

Both branches can be picked out on Google Maps. As can roads like Railway Terrace and Station Road!

Whether any of these branches are worth reopening, is one for the planners armed with future knowledge of developments and various statistics.

Did Boris Know More Than He Said?

I have listened to Prime Ministers Questions off and on, since the time of Mrs. Thatcher.

Not often, does any Prime Minister make a substantial statement in PMQs, as they rarely have all the facts at their fingertips and don’t want to be called to account later.

In response to a direct question from a local MP, about the opening of Ferryhill station, Boris after usual PMQ waffle, said this.

I will make sure that I add to that an ambition to come and see Ferryhill station launched with him.

As decisions on the Leamside Line and hydrogen trains for Teesside have been delayed for months or possibly years, I wondered, if the decision has recently been made.

  • If the plan had been discussed in Cabinet, Boris would surely have known more.
  • A government minister was also seen on the BBC News at Horden station having a look, last week.
  • The tone of the Sunderland Echo article is also very positive.

All that prompted me to write this post.

Conclusion

After looking at the Leamside Line and other railways in the North East, I think there is a lot that can be done to create a world-class local railway in the area.

June 6, 2020 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments