For the people of the Blyth Valley, it’s payback time. Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has announced a £34million fund to start to reinstate the passenger rail line between Newcastle and Ashington.
This is seen by many as a reward for being the first constituency to breach the ‘red wall’ of seats extending across the Midlands and North of England in the 2019 general election, which gave Boris Johnson his victory. Yet it is far more than a cynical political gesture.
‘Re-opening that line in 2024 will have a massive effect on the area’s economy,’ says James Middleton, a regional partner with Garrington Property Finders.
Iconic: The Tyne and Swing bridges of Newcastle. The government has announced a £34 million fund to start to reinstate the passenger rail line between Newcastle and Ashington
‘It will mean two-way regeneration with people living near the line commuting more easily into Newcastle for work and vice versa.
‘This is sure to be good news for the property market, which has been flat-lining.’
The project will assure that the line, which is currently only used for freight, is refurbished and new stations opened in Ashington, Bedlington, Blyth Bebside, Newsham, Seaton Delaval and Northumberland Park in North Tyneside.
This is an area that has struggled since the closure of the coal mines in the late 1980s, with high unemployment and rundown town centres. Yet, it is far from being on the scrap heap.
Northumberland-born legend Sir Bobby Charlton
A former mining town, Ashington has societies for every activity that is traditionally associated with the North East, including leek growing, whippet racing and pigeon fancying.
It is the town that produced Northumberland’s three greatest footballers: the Newcastle hero Jackie Milburn and the Charlton brothers, Jack and Sir Bobby.
‘We are close to the most glorious wild and unspoilt coastline and only a 15-minute drive to the Northumberland National Park,’ says local estate agent Mike Rogerson.
‘That rail line is going to bring a huge boost to the area in terms of housing, employment and education.’
It is today’s house prices that are the main attraction.
In Ashington, the average property sold for £119,000 last year, according to Rightmove.
A terrace cottage on average costs £78,000; a semi-detached £132,000 and a detached would be £196,000 —which is reasonable even by Northumberland standards.
There is a five-bedroom newly built Charles Church home for sale for £320,000 in Carnoustie Close, Seaton Vale, Ashington.
It has an open-plan kitchen dining room opening onto the garden; two of the bedrooms are en-suite and there is a double garage.
The Ashington to Newcastle line is the first of a collection of lines the Government is considering reopening as part of the Prime Minister’s pledge to reverse the legacy of Dr Richard Beeching, the former British Rail Chairman, who in closed more than 2,300 stations in the Sixties.
Another ambitious rail project – targeted for 2025 – is a direct service between Bicester and Bletchley as part of the better link between Oxford and Cambridge.
This will see two trains an hour running between the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire towns.
A link was opened between Oxford and Bicester in 2016.
This is likely to bring about yet more expansion to the boom town of Bicester. Marked as one of the new ‘garden towns,’ it is a key area of growth with some 13,000 homes in the pipeline.
An excellent location is the town’s core attraction, being near the M40 which links to Birmingham and London. It is also a commuter town for Oxford, just 15 miles away.
A mix of the old and the new, Bicester has a bustling market every Friday, while for those seeking retail therapy (post-lockdown) there is Bicester Village shopping centre, which attracts three million visitors a year.
Average prices in Bicester range from £275,000 for a terrace house to £288,000 for a semi-detached and £433,000 for a detached, according to Rightmove.
And like the towns on the Ashington to Newcastle line, prices are expected to spiral when the new line is finished. Our rail links should never be overlooked.