In the shadow of Hadrian’s Wall…
West Road’s historic Haltwhistle is looking forward to a new lease of life, says BEN JONES
COMPLETED by the Newcastle & Carlisle Railway in 1838, the 60-mile Tyne Valley line was the northernmost of England’s trans-Pennine railways and is a strategic link between the north-east and Cumbria. Although it serves a rural and sparsely populated region in the shadow of Hadrian’s Wall it remains a vital diversionary route for the East Coast Main Line and a principal freight route.
One of the line’s most important stations, and one which should benefit from an enhanced service over the coming years, is Haltwhistle. Until 1976 it was the junction
for the Alston branch, and serves a huge hinterland stretching across the remote north Pennines. Like several other stations on the line, it is still graced by a superb North Eastern Railway signalbox, this example dating from 1901, positioned between the staggered platforms. The Grade 2-listed structure was decommissioned in 1993, but remains in use as a staff office.
The heavy iron ore and coal traffic of the 19th and 20th centuries has passed into history, but the line still carries some freight, including coal and nuclear flasks as well as an hourly passenger service (reducing to two-hourly in the evenings), with three trains a day giving the town a direct link to Glasgow Central.
Northern’s offering on this route looks set to be transformed over the coming years as part of the ‘Northern Connect’ network of fast regional trains across the north of England. New and refurbished diesel multiple units will be introduced by December 2019 on key routes, including Newcastle-Carlisle-Middlesbrough.
This October should also see the line, nicknamed the ‘West Road’ by NER crews, identified as a crucial regional rail corridor by Transport for the North when it publishes its report on public transport priorities across the region.
Haltwhistle station on May 26.