THE boss of the project to bring passenger rail back to south east Northumberland for the first time in decades has revealed when it is hoped the first passengers will climb aboard.

The long-awaited Northumberland Line was due to open in December this year, but this month that deadline was pushed back to “summer 2024”.

Now, residents have been provided with further clarity, after programme director Neil Blackburn confirmed August 2024 was being targeted as the new completion date.

Speaking at Tuesday’s meeting of the Cramlington, Bedlington and Seaton Valley Local Area Council, Mr Blackburn said he was confident the deadline would be met.

Hexham Courant: Northumberland Line preparations uncover ancient remains at new rail siteNorthumberland Line preparations uncover ancient remains at new rail site (Image: Northumberland County Council)

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He said: “We’re targeting August next year for the first passengers to be carried. That relies on a number of things coming together.

“The stations will be the final pieces of the jigsaw and we’re working to August right now. Once we get going it’s pretty hard to stop. We’re on with it.”

Hexham Courant: Work to replace an underpass near Backworth as part of the Northumberland Line rail projectWork to replace an underpass near Backworth as part of the Northumberland Line rail project (Image: North of Tyne Combined Authority)

Mr Blackburn revealed he hoped trains could go even further than Newcastle, and suggested journeys could go beyond the city.

He added: “We think trains are going to go into platform one or two at Newcastle – that would be a terminus platform, but space at Newcastle is always an issue and will continue to be.

“We could go on to the Metro Centre or another destination. We walk before we run, but I think there’s real potential for Northern to expand it beyond.”

Residents and councillors were told young people travelling for education could get cheaper tickets under plans currently being drawn up for the railways ticketing prices.

Mr Blackburn was keen to stress the benefits he felt the project would have on the area.

READ MORE: Northumberland Line to reopen in summer 2024

He added: “I’m a local lad. I knew some of the issues beforehand in terms of what this will provide to all of the communities along the line. It’s an absolute game-changer.

“The word transformational is used too much these days, but this is transformational. Everyone who is involved completely gets that and they’re absolutely committed to the delivery of it.”

The Northumberland Line will stop at Ashington, Bedlington, Blyth Bebside, Newsham, Seaton Delaval, Northumberland Park and finally Newcastle Central.

The Government say the completed line will slash journey times in half and bring the railway back to towns that have not had services since the time of the Beatles.

The project forms part of the Government’s Restoring Your Railways scheme, which has been reinstating local services and restoring closed stations and railway lines that were axed as a result of the Beeching cuts in 1963.