The Leamside Line, originally part of the Durham Junction Railway, is a disused railway line, located in the North East of England. The alignment diverges from the East Coast Main Line at Tursdale Junction, travelling a distance of 21 miles (34 kilometres) north through the Durham Coalfield and Washington, prior to joining the Durham Coast Line at Pelaw Junction.[1] The Leamside Line closed to passenger traffic in 1964, under the Beeching cuts.

Leamside Line
OwnerNetwork Rail
TypeHeavy rail
SystemNational Rail
OpenedFrom 1838
  • 1964 (to passengers)
  • 1990s (to goods)
Line length21 miles (34 km)
Track gauge4 ft 8+12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge
Leamside line
Pelaw Metro station
Wardley Colliery
Washington (2nd station..1850-1963)
Lambton Railway
to Collieries
Lambton Railway
to Collieries & Lambton Staithes
Rainton & Seaham Railway
to Collieries & Seaham Harbour
Rainton Crossing
Rainton Meadows
Lambton Railway
to Collieries
Belmont Junction (1844–1857)
Durham (Gilesgate) (1844–1857)
Lambton Railway
to Collieries & Lambton Staithes
Sherburn House
Durham Elvet (1893–1931)
Sherburn Colliery
Durham (1857– )
Shincliffe Town (1839–1893)

History edit

The first section of the Leamside Line was opened in August 1838, by the Durham Junction Railway, between Washington on the Stanhope and Tyne Railway, and Rainton Meadows.

In September 1843, the Durham Junction Railway was acquired by the Newcastle and Darlington Junction Railway ahead of the opening of the company's planned route between Newcastle and Darlington. The planned route involved operating over the existing alignment, owned by the Durham Junction Railway, which was operating at a loss, and therefore unable to upgrade the track.[2][3] Upon completion, passenger services commenced in June 1844, between Darlington and Greenesfield, near Gateshead. The station at Greenesfield was subsequently closed, following the opening of Newcastle, in August 1850.

The line between Washington and Pelaw was opened in September 1849, by the York, Newcastle and Berwick Railway – the successor of the Newcastle and Darlington Junction Railway. Prior to the opening of this line, trains traveled via Brockley Whins.[4]

The stone arch Victoria Viaduct, constructed between 1836 and 1838, is inspired by the design of the Alcántara Bridge in Spain. The line travels 135 feet (41 metres) over the River Wear, carried on four arches, spanning between 100 and 160 feet (30 and 49 metres).[5][6]

The Leamside Line constituted part of the original East Coast Main Line route from London to Edinburgh, until 1872, eventually being incorporated into the North Eastern Railway. The line's main source of revenue, as with most of the early railways, was mineral traffic, principally coal from the Durham Coalfield. The line was linked to many private colliery branch lines and waggonways.

In 1872, the North Eastern Railway line between Bishop Auckland and Gateshead, as well as the Croxdale link, became part of the East Coast Main Line. Thereafter, the Leamside Line continued to carry local passenger services and freight traffic, as well as serving as a diversionary route from the East Coast Main Line.

In 1941, passenger services between Ferryhill and Leamside were withdrawn, resulting in the closure of stations at Shincliffe (in June 1941),[7] and Sherburn Colliery (in July 1941) to passengers.[8] Leamside was the next station on the line to close, in October 1953, to both goods and passengers.[9] Usworth and Washington followed around 10 years later, closing in September 1963.[10][11] Penshaw and Fencehouses subsequently closed to passengers in May 1964.[12] This marked the line's closure to passenger traffic, which occurred contemporaneously with the Penshaw–Sunderland line.[13]

Ferryhill station, being at the junction with the modern East Coast Main Line remained open for a further three years, closing to passengers in March 1967. The station closed to goods in the 1980s.[14] Coal and other freight continued to be carried for some years but declined due to the gradual demise of the Durham Coalfield between the 1970s and 1990s. In the late-1980s the line was used at weekends for East Coast Main Line trains that were diverted due to electrification of the line between Newcastle and Darlington, especially in 1989 to avoid Durham when there was a major remodeling of the track through Durham station.

InterCity 125 train just south of the Victoria Viaduct diverted onto the Leamside line in 1989

In the early 1990s, and following the closure of the Freightliner terminal at Follingsby, near Wardley, the Leamside Line was mothballed almost entirely – the terminal being the recipient of most of the line's traffic during the final years of operation. A short section of the Leamside Line from Pelaw Junction remained in operation, serving the open-cast coal mine at Wardley, which has also since closed.

After closure edit

Following the line's closure in the early 1990s, the double track was reduced to a single line in some places, with the track severed at some level crossings along the line. Initially, the line's engineering features remained intact. However, the embankment carrying the line over Moors Burn, located around 500 yards (460 m) from to the north of the former station at Fencehouses, had partially collapsed, leaving the former down track suspended. Substantial parts of the line and infrastructure were also missing from around the former station at Usworth, which has also become severely overgrown.

In January 2003, a large section of track, located to the south of Penshaw, was stolen over a six-day period.[15][16] In late 2012 and early 2013, around 16 miles (26 kilometres) of track was lifted, with Network Rail insisting that this would have no effect on any future re-opening plans, as track renewal would be necessary. The line is currently safeguarded from development, with no sales of land attached to the line.[17][18][19]

The former Freightliner terminal at Follingsby, near Wardley, is currently under development, with plans to construct an Amazon warehouse and fulfilment centre – leading to the potential creation of over 1,000 jobs.[20][21][22] The site of the former open-cast coal mine at Wardley is also now under private development.[23][24]

Proposed re-opening, upgrade and development edit

Since the line's closure in the early 1990s, a number of proposals to re-open the Leamside Line have been put forward, including plans by AECOM,[25] ATOC,[26] Durham County Council,[27] Railtrack and Tyne and Wear PTE.[28] The line has been considered for a number of potential uses, including a regional suburban rail service linking Tyneside and Teesside, a diversionary freight route for the East Coast Main Line, and an extension to the Tyne and Wear Metro network.

Part of the Durham to Sunderland Line, which diverged from the Leamside Line to the south-east of the Victoria Viaduct, re-opened in March 2002, following the Tyne and Wear Metro's extension to Wearside. The line terminates at South Hylton, around 3 miles (4.8 km) from the former junction with the Leamside Line. In early 2020, discussions between councils began, looking into the potential extension of the Tyne and Wear Metro network to the International Advanced Manufacturing Park in Washington, using the former alignment of the Leamside Line.[29]

In March 2020, a bid was made to the Restoring Your Railway fund to get funds for a feasibility study into reinstating the line. This bid was unsuccessful.[30][31]

Since being elected in 2019 the North of Tyne Mayor, Jamie Driscoll, has campaigned for the reopening of the line.

At the Conservative Party conference in 2023, The Party announced plans to re-open the line as part of its "Network North" programme.[32] However, the following day the Government backtracked and said they were only "looking into it".[33]

References edit

  1. ^ "Leamside Line". Railfuture. Retrieved 24 March 2020.
  2. ^ Allen, Cecil J. (1974). The North Eastern Railway. Ian Allan Publishing. pp. 71, 75. ISBN 9780711004955.
  3. ^ Hoole, K. (1974). A Regional History of the Railways of Great Britain: Volume IV: The North East. David & Charles. p. 161. ISBN 9780715364390.
  4. ^ Hoole, K. (1974). A Regional History of the Railways of Great Britain: Volume IV The North East. David & Charles. pp. 161–164. ISBN 0715364391.
  5. ^ Smith, Martin (1994). British Railway Bridges and Viaducts. Ian Allan Publishing. pp. 24–25. ISBN 9780711022737.
  6. ^ Historic England. "Victoria Railway Bridge (1354978)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 24 March 2020.
  7. ^ "Shincliffe". Disused Stations. Retrieved 24 March 2020.
  8. ^ "Sherburn Colliery". Disused Stations. Retrieved 24 March 2020.
  9. ^ "Leamside (2nd site)". Disused Stations. Retrieved 24 March 2020.
  10. ^ "Usworth". Disused Stations. Retrieved 24 March 2020.
  11. ^ "Washington (2nd site)". Disused Stations. Retrieved 24 March 2020.
  12. ^ "Penshaw (2nd site)". Disused Stations. Retrieved 24 March 2020.
  13. ^ "Fencehouses". Disused Stations. Retrieved 24 March 2020.
  14. ^ "Ferryhill". Disused Stations. Retrieved 24 March 2020.
  15. ^ "Jail sentence for rail track thief". BBC News. 20 May 2003. Retrieved 16 November 2012.
  16. ^ Stokes, Paul (20 May 2003). "Ex-rail engineer stole two miles of track for scrap". The Telegraph. Retrieved 24 March 2020.
  17. ^ "Rail line's return journey derailed". JournalLive. 15 September 2006. Archived from the original on 26 May 2011. Retrieved 10 December 2006.
  18. ^ Arnold, Stuart (14 March 2018). "Mothballed railway lines on the agenda at campaign group meeting". The Northern Echo. Retrieved 24 March 2020.
  19. ^ "Leamside Line - a Freedom of Information request to Network Rail Limited". WhatDoTheyKnow. 15 July 2014. Retrieved 24 March 2020.
  20. ^ Harrison, James (12 February 2020). "New Amazon base at Follingsby 'would not compete with IAMP', say council chiefs amid reports of online giant's enterprise park buy-up". Sunderland Echo. Retrieved 24 March 2020.
  21. ^ Ford, Coreena (11 February 2020). "Jobs hope as Amazon set to create Gateshead fulfilment centre". ChronicleLive. Retrieved 24 March 2020.
  22. ^ Thompson, Fiona (14 February 2020). "Jobs boost welcomed as Amazon looks set to create new base on the edge of Sunderland and South Tyneside". The Shields Gazette. Retrieved 24 March 2020.
  23. ^ Whitfield, Graeme (5 June 2018). "Former Wardley coal depot could become key site for North East economy". ChronicleLive. Retrieved 24 March 2020.
  24. ^ McCabe, John (4 June 2018). "Harworth's plans for former North East coal site could contribute millions to regional economy". North East England Chamber of Commerce. Retrieved 24 March 2020.
  25. ^ "Rail Freight Review 2010" (PDF). AECOM. March 2010. Retrieved 24 March 2020.
  26. ^ Black, David (15 June 2009). "New hope for expansion of rail network". The Journal. Retrieved 24 March 2020.
  27. ^ "Local Transport Plan 3 (LTP3)" (PDF). Durham County Council. 2011. Retrieved 24 March 2020.
  28. ^ "Study to look at case for Leamside rail reopening". Transport Briefing. 5 December 2006. Archived from the original on 26 September 2007. Retrieved 10 December 2006.
  29. ^ Harrison, James (22 March 2020). "'Detailed talks' underway to extend Metro to serve giant new business park". The Shields Gazette. Retrieved 22 March 2020.
  30. ^ Restoring Your Railway Fund: bids received
  31. ^ Edgar, Bill (28 October 2021). "North East MPs angered by Government's rejection of Leamside Line reopening". The Northern Echo. Retrieved 29 October 2021.
  32. ^ Holland, Daniel (4 October 2023). "Reaction to Government's 'unclear' pledges to North East after HS2 axe". ChronicleLive. Retrieved 5 October 2023.
  33. ^ Holland, Daniel (5 October 2023). "Government U-turns on pledge to reopen Leamside Line after just 24 hours". ChronicleLive. Retrieved 5 October 2023.

External links edit