UPDATE: Richard Holden MP gets Prime Minister's support as he kicks off the campaign for a new public transport link between Consett and Gateshead/Newcastle

Richard Holden, MP for North West Durham, has this morning submitted a formal expression of interest to the Department for Transport to request that a potential new link between Consett and Newcastle be looked into. This is a project that Richard is leading and the formal application follows months of hard work by Richard and his team.

Richard confirmed that he has submitted the application during a question during Prime Minister’s Questions, where he got the support of the Prime Minister himself for the application. You can watch this here. You can also watch Richard as he walks along the Derwent Walk and discusses his bid here.

This is the first stage of what will be a long-term campaign and follows Richard’s election pledge to campaign for a new public transport link from Consett to the urban centres of the North East. Feasibility studies determine whether a project has overarching economic merit and is technically viable and, importantly, demonstrate to those potentially funding the project that it is worthwhile and will result in a good social and economic rate of return. A feasibility study would include economic forecasts for the project, outline technical specifications, including where the line would run, and an analysis of the demand for such a project. If Richard is successful with his expression of interest, a feasibility study would take place to assess the local transport needs and demand.

If the feasibility study bid is successful, the feasibility study would receive 75% of the funds to conduct it from the Government’s new “Beeching fund”, which is part of the government’s drive to re-open former rail routes.

Richard’s formal expression of interest follows months of meetings with local and national stakeholders, including Gateshead Council, Durham County Council, local councillors from all parties, Transport for the North and both Ministers and the Secretary of State in the Department for Transport.

During the election campaign, Richard hosted Transport Secretary Grant Shapps in the constituency to talk about the railway plans, which you can read about here. He spoke about his campaign for a feasibility study in his maiden speech, which you can read about and watch here. He brought his campaign to Parliament when he spoke about it in the House of Commons (watch this here) and he has asked questions about it in Parliament directly to the Transport Secretary, which you can read about here.

Richard is leading on the project and has the support of many local stakeholders. The formal submission bid for funding now has to be completed by mid-June when it will be assessed by the Department for Transport and a decision made as to whether a feasibility study will take place.

Durham Council have stepped up to the plate and said that they will work with other local authorities to find the remaining 25% of the funding. Overall, the feasibility study is expected to cost in the high tens of thousands of pounds, with 75% of this from the DfT if Richard’s bid is successful.

Commenting, Richard said “I campaigned on connecting and levelling up North West Durham and that’s exactly what I plan to deliver. Over the last six months I have been working incredibly hard to deliver on my election pledges and for the people of North West Durham. I am hopeful that the government recognises that North West Durham needs this vital link to help drive further much needed investment into my constituency. I am delighted that we reached a point where I could kickstart the formal process.

“I promised the people of North West Durham that I would do everything I could to improve the transport for the area and this is one of many steps I am taking to deliver for my constituents.”

To hear more about the work that Richard is doing for North West Durham, you can sign up here or input your details in the form on this page.