Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen has today (22 November) announced that he will bring forward a £45 million rail investment plan to the November meeting of the Combined Authority Cabinet.
The funding request will provide £25 million for Darlington station and £20 million to fully fund the redevelopment of Middlesbrough station.
The Mayor has pledged to finance the two schemes from the Transforming Cities Fund that has been devolved to the area from Government, which was topped up to £75.5million in the Chancellor’s Autumn Budget. This money has been specifically targeted to areas with elected Metro Mayors.
The redevelopment of Darlington station will see a major transformation of the station and address key rail infrastructure issues that currently limits capacity. The work will see the introduction of new platforms, improved track layout and signalling, improvements to the station including a new bridge, an improved western entrance, and a new eastern entrance, along with improved passenger facilities.
Once complete in 2023, the upgraded station will unlock capacity across the area leading to faster, more frequent and better quality services in the Tees Valley. It will also allow for better freight connections from Teesport, and prepare
If the station gets a revamp, it will also be able to take the new HS2 trains, cutting journey times to the UK's biggest cities - including to London - by 30 minutes.
In June, £3million was signed off by the Mayor to start the necessary work to prepare a bid into Government. The bid to fund the rest of the estimated £120million project will be submitted early next year. Government normally expects a local contribution of between 15 and 20 per cent of the total cost.
Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen said: “The redevelopment of Darlington station is a project of national significance to relieve pressures on the East Coast Main Line and improve services on our local line too. That’s why I am committing £25million to the project, but I’m clear that Government will also need to cough up to fund the rest.
“Our proposed scheme to transform Darlington station would cut journey times, improve regional transport links and give visitors an incredible welcome to the area.
“Government ministers are very much aware that this is one of my top transport priorities for the region, and I’ll continue to do all I can to push the case to ensure the rest of our plans for Darlington station are funded.”
The £20million needed to fully-fund the Middlesbrough station redevelopment will dramatically enhance and improve the station, making it ready to handle direct trains to London. The plan also includes a new glass frontage and concourse on Bridge Street, and a commercial unit alongside a third platform.
The investment will also see the station under-croft brought back into use, including the creation of new business space which will allow the southern entrance to be permanently re-opened.
Earlier this year the Mayor warned that existing platforms at the station are not big enough to handle the new Class 800 Azuma trains that will run on the East Coast Main Line from early next year.
Investment will also allow for the doubling of services to Whitby - from 4 to 8 per day - and the new Northern Connect express service into Newcastle starting next year.
If the investment is signed off by the Combined Authority Cabinet on 30 November, work will commence on Middlesbrough station in early 2019, with an expected completion date of 2022.
The £20million commitment will compliment an additional £4.5million that has already been allocated by the Tees Valley Combined Authority and Network Rail.
Mayor Houchen added: “I am proposing to use over half of the £75million transport fund devolved to our area from government to finance the redevelopment of Darlington and Middlesbrough stations.
“The importance and benefits of these two schemes cannot be understated. The people of the Tees Valley rightly demand high-quality rail links connecting them with the whole region and the rest of the country. If we do not make these important investments now, it is hard to see how these critical upgrades can go ahead.
“For years we’ve seen nothing but empty promises and CGI images from local politicians, but now we’re putting our money where our mouth it. With the money devolved to our area because we have a Mayor, we can finally start investing in our rail infrastructure.”