In the shadow of Hadrian’s Wall…

West Road’s his­toric Haltwhis­tle is look­ing for­ward to a new lease of life, says BEN JONES

Rail (UK) - - Bigger Picture -

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.

PAUL CHILDS.

Haltwhis­tle sta­tion on May 26.

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