Ferryhill Station

Latest News - July 2022- The business case for re-opening Ferryhill Station, funded by the Restoring Your Railways Fund, has been accepted by Government and so the project can move on to its next stage. A total of £15m will be shared by the 9 projects that have reached this stage with the aim of accelerating their development and delivery. We don’t yet know how much of the £15m will be allocated to Ferryhill or how it will be spent. Even if this were to be enough to complete the work on the design this is only one step, albeit an important step, towards re-opening. A lot more money will be needed before we see trains calling at the new station. The most recent station in the region, at Horden, cost £10m and one of the most recent in the UK, at Reston in the Scottish Borders, cost £20m. Both stations were built to provide local services but are able to accommodate the longer trains used on national services. Both have large car parks and both are on sections of line that comprise two tracks without any local junctions. Ferryhill, because it will be sited on a junction between the ECML and the Stillington line, may need to be more complex if it to fulfil its potential for changing lives in this part of County Durham. Much of the recent press coverage of this project has concentrated on the undoubted benefits of it being able to offer a passenger service between Teesside and Ferryhill. However, the North East Rail and Metro Strategy goes further and proposes a direct service between Tyne and Tees using the Leamside and Stillington Lines - a service that would use the new station at Ferryhill. This proposal would offer a much larger range of possible direct journeys to and from Ferryhill as well as connecting into the Tyne and Wear Metro at Heworth – with connections to Sunderland and South Shields. Railfuture North East wants to go further and argues that a re-opened Ferryhill Station and the Stillington Line should be used to allow for a fast Tyne-Tees service to run via Chester-le-Street, Durham, and Ferryhill. In this respect it is good to see that both the IRP and the North East Rail and Metro Strategy propose several small-scale infrastructure improvements that would add at least one extra path on the ECML – our battle will be to see that this path is used for this local service rather than for additional long-distance services. A fast Tyne Tees service will both maximise the revenue from the project and provide regular services to and from both Durham and Chester-le-Street. We think that is important that the siting and design of the station must be able to accommodate services to Teesside via Stillington, services to Tyneside via a re-opened Leamside and the ECML, and services travelling both North and South on the ECML.

Ferryhill Station – A History

The Clarence Railway, initially built as a mineral line between Stockton and Port Clarence, reached Ferryhill in 1834 an in 1840 a station was opened to serve the 850 people who lived in the town. By 1844 the Newcastle and Darlington Junction railway had opened a line to Gateshead that also ran through Ferryhill. The two competing lines merged to become the North Eastern Railway and Ferryhill gradually grew into an important railway centre with several branch lines extending into the surrounding area. It also had a goods yard that was said to be, between the 1920s and 1950s, one of the busiest in Europe. The North Eastern Railway rebuilt the station as an island platform in 1887, so allowing the introduction of services to London and Edinburgh, and built an engine shed to serve traffic from the many local collieries. It was the closure of the collieries, and the passenger services on the remaining branch lines, that foreshadowed the closure of Ferryhill Station despite its strategic position on the ECML. Beeching recommended that the station be closed in 1963 but local opposition led to its remaining open to passengers until 1967. After 1967 it remained open as a goods only station to serve the nearby Dean and Chapter Colliery until that closed in 1969. The station was closed and was soon burnt down and demolished.

Why do we want to see a new station at Ferryhill?

Ferryhill Station still exists on road signs. What we need now is an actual station to serve the many potential passengers
Ferryhill Station still exists on road signs. What we need now is an actual station to serve the many potential passengers
The Ferryhill of today is very different from the Ferryhill of the colliery days. It has a population of 11,656 with 45,000 living within a 4-mile radius at locations such as Middlestone Moor, Kirk Merrington, Tudhoe, Chilton, Cornforth, Bishop Middleham, Mainsforth and Sedgefield (population figures from 2011 census). All these areas would benefit from the significant economic regeneration that results from a new station and better connections with the rest of the UK. Railfuture says that the new station could be served by the existing TransPennine Express services between Manchester and Tyneside offering destination that would include Durham, Newcastle, Darlington, Leeds, and Manchester.
Coastliners, one of the Teesside RUGs, have been campaigning to see the establishment of a fast service from Middlesbrough to Tyneside via the Stillington Line – Such a service would allow easy access from Ferryhill to Teesside.
A further local campaign calls for the re-opening of the Leamside Line and this would offer the possibility of a local service between Ferryhill and Pelaw offering both a further set of new destinations as well as connections with the Tyne and Wear Metro. Follow these links to see more information about the Leamside line and the proposals for a fast service between then Tyne and Tees. Whilst there are jobs in and around Ferryhill many of the 45,000 people living in the area would benefit from being able to access the jobs markets of Tyneside, Wearside, and Teesside - to say nothing of the additional social possibilities that these large centres offer.

What sort of station is needed?

The Railfuture North East campaign argues for the construction of a new station at the point where the Middelham road bridge crosses all 4 current lines, as well as the line to the limeworks. A northbound mainline platform will be required, an island platform with two faces will serve the southbound mainline and the northbound Leamside line, finally a third platform will service the southbound Leamside line. Existing pointwork to the south of our proposed new station site already allows a connection between the ECML and the Leamside lines, albeit with a speed restriction.

Growing Support

A local group, who can be found at https://www.facebook.com/groups/ferryhill have started their own campaign and drew up a petition to Durham County Council. Local independent councillors offered enthusiastic support but it has gained considerable cross-party support. The petition read: “We the undersigned petition the Council to Prioritise the re-opening of Ferryhill Railway Station and the Leamside Line within the Council's regeneration and travel policies. The Railway Station at Ferryhill has been closed for several years. Ferryhill sits on several rail lines including the Stillington Line which could be used to travel south into Teesside. The Leamside Line has been mothballed but if put back in use would provide travel north and possibly link to the Metro Line in Tyneside. This Rail link would provide cleaner transport across the County”. Over 3,500 people signed the petition and, just as importantly, it has raised the profile of the whole idea.

Paul Howell, the MP for Sedgefield, has met with the North East Branch of Railfuture. He was particularly in interested to get our views on the Government’s willingness to consider some reopening of rail lines originally closed under the 1963 Beeching Plan including the Leamside route from Ferryhill to Pelaw. Paul was particularly interested in flagging up the need for a new station at Ferryhill and we’ve remained in touch with him to offer our advice and support for his campaigns to rebuild and revitalise this part of the rail network.

The North East Joint Transport Committee is drawn from Councillors covering Northumberland, Tyne and Wear, and Durham. They have recently produced their first Transport Plan covering the period to 2035. Re-opening Ferryhill Station and the Leamside line are in their list of priorities in the section headed “Schemes for development and delivery in the next ten years” with a note attached saying that delivery could start short notice. What is also important in this context is the plan to re-open the whole of Leamside Line has been adopted by Transport for the North. Re-opening Leamside and, if possible Stillington, will increase the number of destinations that can be directly served from a re-opened Ferryhill Station – and will help make the whole project much more financially attractive.

Finding the Money

The Department for Transport announced the £500m Restoring Your Railway Fund in January 2020 and sought bids for money that would allow local communities to build a business case for the re-instatement of railway services in an area and to add new railway stations to the railway network. The good news is that “Ferryhill Restoration” has been awarded money from this fund and work is currently being carried out to build the business case. Once there is a solid business case the work will start to find the money from either local or national sources.

What barriers do we still have to overcome?

Ferryhill Signal Box
Ferryhill Signal Box
We know that there are already proposals to add additional services between London and Edinburgh and this, coupled with additional demands in the future arising from both HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail, won’t be possible without substantial additional capacity being added to the ECML. These additional fast services could make it very difficult to find paths for the slower trains that would be needed to provide a wide range of destinations from a new Ferryhill Station. The good news is that Network Rail have published a study exploring how to increase capacity between York and Newcastle. It would be nearly impossible to add two further tracks alongside the current ECML and so attention has turned to using alternative alignments to increase capacity. One of their proposals is to re-route slow freight trains via Northallerton, Stockton and then via the Stillington Line to emerge on the ECML at Ferryhill and open all, or part of, the Leamside Line. However, proposals reopen the Stillington line for passenger use are less clear and the proposals for the Leamside line may be limited to making use of only a short section before re-joining the ECML to the North of Durham. In our response to the draft North East Transport Plan we, Railfuture North East, set out the case for a full re-opening of the two lines.

If you’ve enjoyed reading the above, why not consider joining Railfuture. You can do so at https://www.railfuture.org.uk/join/. When you log in to the Railfuture home page you will see a whole range of information about our work and, from this page, you can link to the North East Branch for details of local activities and campaigns.

Updated July 2022

Return to North East home page