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Derwent Walk

Volume 714: debated on Tuesday 10 May 2022

The petition of residents of the constituency of Blaydon.

Declares that the Derwent Walk is under significant threat of destruction or irrevocable change through the proposal of a permanent transport route linking Consett and Gateshead and/or Newcastle; notes that the walk lies on the former track bed of the Derwent Vallet Railway, opening in 1867 and closed in 1962 under Beeching proposals, due to underuse; notes that the walk has since developed, enveloping C2C cycle routes, the National Cycle Network (No 14) and a country park, and is also the site of a Scheduled Monument, with a vast area covered by the protected status; and further that the proposal of a permanent transport route does not properly account for access for the disabled or the importance of walking and cycling routes.

The petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urge the Government to accept the concerns of residents, to commit to maintain the integrity of the Derwent Walk, and reject the feasibility study for the above reasons. And furthermore, to discuss the current proposal with members of the ‘Save Our Derwent Walk’ group.

And the petitioners remain, etc. —[Presented by Liz Twist, Official Report, 27 April 2022; Vol. 712, c. 844.]


Observations from The Minister of State, Department for Transport (Wendy Morton):

I thank the residents of Blaydon for expressing their concerns about the proposal to improve connections between Consett and Newcastle. The scheme is promoted by Durham Council and Gateshead Council, and sponsored by my hon. Friend the Member for North West Durham (Mr Holden).

Durham County Council received up to £50,000 early development funding from the second round of the Restoring Your Railway Ideas Fund, which provides early development funding to reopen rail lines and stations to reconnect communities.

Using this £50,000 funding—and £18,000 of their own money—the county council developed a strategic outline business case (SOBC), which examines a number of ways to enhance connections between Consett and Newcastle, including bus, cycle and light/heavy rail options, with new track to be built for the rail options; with the aim of enabling local residents to sustainably access a greater number of services and opportunities and to help to stimulate inward investment.

The council’s final SOBC was submitted in November 2021, and is currently being reviewed by the Department. The Secretary of State for Transport and the Rail Minister are considering next steps for schemes, including Consett and Newcastle, with a decision on the next tranche to progress anticipated later this year.

The Historical Railways Estate (HRE), currently managed by National Highways (NH) on behalf of the Transport Secretary, has regular discussions with the devolved administrations, local authorities and other stakeholders including the National Trust on the possible re-use of parts of the estate to support walking and cycling wherever possible.

We expect restoring your railway proposals to evidence local views in their business cases and, if taken forward, consult with local stakeholders and fully consider environmental impacts.

We also expect the industry to meet current accessibility requirements at new and existing stations whenever it installs, renews or replaces station infrastructure as mandated in the ‘Design Standards for Accessible Railway Stations: A Code of Practice’. Failure to comply with the code could be a breach of their license to operate and leave train operating companies open to enforcement action by the Office of Rail and Road.