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New Station at Team Valley

Team Valley Station
Latest News: The North East Joint Transport Committee is made up of Councillors from Northumberland, Tyne and Wear, and Durham. At their meeting on 17th November Tobyn Hughes, Managing Director of Transport North East, reported that Network Rail had secured funding to develop their plan to re-open the Bensham Curve. This move would be, we think, an essential element in any plan to re-open a station at Low Fell to provide a service for Team Valley as well as a number of local housing estates. The Committee have also produced a draft of a plan for the whole of their area that covers the period to 2035. The plan covers all roads, buses, ferries and rail transport but this website is particularly interested in the sections on rail. Also included in the plan is an ambition to extend the Metro to Team Valley.

Background
In 1868 the North Eastern Railway opened a station at Low Fell, on their Team Valley Line. The station aimed to serve the community of Low Fell a suburb of Gateshead. There were few houses in the immediate area of the station with the bulk of population living some distance from the station in terraces around the main road into Newcastle. To make things worse the station and the main area of housing were separated by a steep hill. 
In the late 1930’s, following the Great Depression, Government found money to develop the Team Valley Trading Estate. The estate occupies land immediately to the west of the railway line on which Low Fell Station stood.  By 1949 9,500 people worked on the trading estate.
In 1952, despite the possibiliteis of new traffic from the trading estate, the station was closed by British Railways but some of the platforms and the footbridge remained and were the site of the suicide in 1957, of Hughie Gallacher – one of the finest players ever to play for Newcastle United. Sometime later the site was cleared and little, if anything remains to show that the station ever existed.  The area of Low Fell close to the former station is now served by a bus service, as is Team Valley Trading Estate.
Since the station closure Team Valley has more than doubled in size and now employs in excess of 20,000 people. It is a major shopping destination and the home of important parts of Gateshead College. These developments are in addition to light industry, warehousing, and offices.  In addition, the area has seen a considerable growth in housing provision in the area immediately to the east of the ECML leading up to Harlow Green and the A1 to the south of the older areas of Low Fell. 

Our Proposal
Railfuture Northeast has long advocated the reopening of a station on more or less the same site as previously occupied by Low Fell Station. We note that the numbers of people working locally has doubled since the closure and that the potential for passengers has been further boosted by the visitors to both shops and the college. Our proposal is to build a new station on the up slow line – a line that is electrified and steers away from the ECML to serve the Royal Mail Depot on Team Valley Trading Estate. We then propose re-instating a curve at Dunston to allow the line to connect with the Tyne Valley line on its way to Newcastle before passing under the ECML and climbing to the end of the King Edward Bridge.  This short section of line, a curve about a quarter mile in length, was only closed and lifted as part of a scheme to ‘simplify’ track layouts at the time of electrification of the ECML.  Prior to closure It was well used by freight trains to and from Tyne Yard which could then pass through Newcastle Central station without affecting the platform lines. The embankment and bridge it used are still in place. The section of line from the curve to the end of the King Edward Bridge, via the Bensham tunnel ‘dive under’ the ECML, should be electrified. We are aware that the station would not be within convenient walking distance of either the further reaches of the trading estate or the housing to the south of Low Fell, and so we say that a properly integrated bus service would need to provide links to the whole area. With a suitably integrated bus service covering both industrial and residential areas a new Team Valley Station could improve access to Newcastle and the wider area. It would also, by removing some car traffic, make a contribution to the need to improve air quality in both the area of the Tyne Bridge and more generally.

Possible Services
We say that the new station could be served, at least initially, the present half hourly TransPennine Express Services. This would provide links from stations to the south of the area as well as a link to Newcastle and a plethora of possible connections – including to the Tyne and Wear Metro and the proposed passenger service on the Ashington, Blyth and Tyne. In the event that we were successful in our campaign for an hourly local EMU service on the ECML to serve all stations between Berwick and Newcastle (see North of Morpeth Local Service)  we will argue for an extension south from Newcastle to, at least, Team Valley, so as to open up easy access to the jobs in Team Valley to a much wider population in Northumberland. 

Progress
We were delighted to read in the local press (Evening Chronicle 31st May 2020) that 3 local MPs Ian Mearns, Liz Twist and Kate Osborne have applied for funding to reconnect Newcastle, Gateshead and the Team Valley. They propose re-opening the ‘Bensham Curve” with the aim of providing rail or Metro connections to Low Fell and the Team Valley, as well as offering another way for trains into Newcastle to free up the East Coast Main Line. The idea, which had already been identified by Nexus as one way of improving rail connections in the region, is being considered by the Department for Transport. Ian Mearns is quoted as saying 
"This is a very realistic scheme - we've got a stretch of line connecting Gateshead, Tyneside and the Team Valley and it won't disrupt rail traffic on the main line either. Plus, it's a flexible idea because it could be utilised for a Metro extension or for future rail services. First and foremost, the first thing we need to be thinking about when we make infrastructure decisions is decarbonising the economy and this would give lots of commuter options”. Ian Mearns goes on to say that "There are as many as 25,000 people working on the Team Valley and you can only get there by car or on the bus. This would be a cleaner way to get to work for a lot of people.We have miles and miles of disused railway line in the North East and if this Government is serious about its pledges to invest in the region then this would be a very good place to start."
Railfuture North East will be getting in touch with the MPs with the aim of helping their campaign and providing them with further information and ideas.

Good News
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. 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 includes a complete or partial re-opening of the Leamside line. In the event of a partial re-opening Network Rail say that the Dunston Curve would need to be re-instated to avoid congestion at Newcastle Central Station. The Dunston curve is one of the keys to re-establishing a station at Team Valley. To add to the possible good news about this campaign Railway Magazine (October 2020) includes a fascinating story to the effect that NEXUS are also considering a bid to the ‘Restoring Your Railways’ Fund aimed at developing proposals for the re-opening of the Dunston Curve. These projects don’t mean that there will be a station at Team Valley – but they do remove one of the obstacles to a new station.

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 November 2020.

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