Weardale Railway - Auckland Project Developments

cuccir

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18 Nov 2009
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As was reported on the 'Dartmoor and Weardale Railways for sale' thread, the Auckland Project (which runs many heritage attractions in Bishop Auckland & is funded largley by philanthropy) purhcased the Weardale Railway in the Spring. Looks like there'll be a lot of devleopments on this front so I thought a new thread may be suitable!

One of the first major steps seems to be coming next week - Durham County Council has been asked to stump-up £2.1million match-funding for the project. From the writing of the Council press release on this it looks like they're looking to provide the money, with approval due next week (16th Sept).

Full press release below, from Durham County Council.

Heritage railway transformation offers economic benefits
Published September 08, 2020 3.45pm
Councillors will consider plans to support the transformation of a heritage railway line into a major visitor attraction next week, as part of wider efforts to regenerate County Durham's economy following the coronavirus pandemic.

Our Cabinet will hear that investing in Weardale Railway would not only support the connectivity of the county through investment in rail but would, in securing its future, significantly boost the region's visitor economy at a crucial time.

A newly established subsidiary of The Auckland Project, Weardale Railway, took over the line last year and is seeking financial support to develop and expand, building on work already undertaken by the railway to create an exemplary tourist attraction. It is anticipated this would draw thousands of additional visitors to the Durham Dales each year. This would not just provide a welcome boost to shops and hospitality businesses in Weardale, but further a-field, as visitors go on to explore other parts of the county.
The venture would also create employment and training opportunities for residents, including apprenticeships for young people, and sustainable transport options.
In order to make the project viable, we have been asked to contribute £2.1 million as match funding towards the cost of vital infrastructure improvements. The partnership with the council has been described as critical to support the successful delivery of the project.
Supporting economic recovery
If Cabinet approves the proposal, the investment would complement other projects we are leading and supporting to safeguard and create jobs and enrich residents' lives; from helping to ensure the development of strategic employment sites such as Integra 61, near Durham, Forrest Park, near Newton Aycliffe, and Jade Business Park, near Seaham, remain on track, to pressing ahead with plans to transform leisure centres and cultural venues; from launching campaigns to encourage people to enjoy day trips and short breaks in the county, to putting the safety measures in place to allow town centre businesses to reopen safely.
Crucial investment
Cllr Carl Marshall, our Cabinet member for economic regeneration, said: "The coronavirus pandemic has had a significant impact on our visitor and leisure economy. By investing in Weardale Railway, we can support this important sector when it needs us most, as well as preserve a valuable part of our region's heritage for future generations.
"This type of investment is crucial to the regeneration of the county and is something we are focusing on as we recover from the impact of the pandemic. Showing we have confidence in our county's future, will encourage other investors to open their businesses here, creating and safeguarding even more jobs."
Dating back to 1847, Weardale Railway stretches a total of 19 miles from Bishop Auckland to Eastgate and connects a number of towns and villages. It has open stations at Witton-le-Wear, Wolsingham, Frosterley and Stanhope and offers a romantic way for people to travel through the picturesque Durham Dales.
Encouraging exploration
Cllr Joy Allen, our Cabinet member for transformation, culture and tourism, said: "The Auckland Project estimates that these plans would attract thousands of additional visitors to Bishop Auckland and the surrounding areas, which is excellent news for the whole county.
"With a calendar of events planned to attract people to the Weardale Railway, it would also encourage people to visit other parts of the county - from Durham City to our stunning heritage coastline. It also has the potential to increase passenger journeys via the Bishop Auckland Line and East Coast Main Line, helping us to attract regional and national visitors and further boosting our economy."
Exciting future
David Maddan, chief executive of The Auckland Project, said: "After a very difficult year for tourism, the future promises to be an exciting one for Weardale Railway as we work with everyone involved to bring this unique heritage line back into operation. Along with Auckland Castle and its grounds, Kynren, the Mining Art Gallery and other galleries in development, our hope is that there will be something for everyone to enjoy in Bishop Auckland. Significant repairs are needed on the line, and our team is working hard behind the scenes to make sure that the next chapter of Weardale Railway's story will be a success."
Cabinet will be asked to consider investing in the project when it meets on Wednesday 16 September.
 
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Jagdpanther

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31 Oct 2016
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The Auckland Project is a fantastic thing which although very long term will bring benefits to BA , a town that has been seriously short changed by history, and put it deservedly on the map. The railway can only add to that.
However you don't necessarily need to spend millions to attract tourists to the area. Nearby Barnard Castle is still having one of its busiest tourist seasons ever - thanks to a certain lockdown-breaking, short-sighted politician!
 

Pinza-C55

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23 May 2015
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I had a look at their site and couldn't see what their intentions were for the Weardale Railway. Is there any prospect of an extension towards Wearhead ?
 

Jagdpanther

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31 Oct 2016
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Although anything is possible I doubt much remains of the track bed beyond Eastgate. EAstgate to Wearhead closed in 1953, 40 years before the line to Eastgate. Also I believe the bridge over the Wear just beyond Eastgate is in very poor condition.
 

Pinza-C55

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Although anything is possible I doubt much remains of the track bed beyond Eastgate. EAstgate to Wearhead closed in 1953, 40 years before the line to Eastgate. Also I believe the bridge over the Wear just beyond Eastgate is in very poor condition.
I had a look on Google Earth and from the 2009 imagery it does look as though the Eastgate bridge is shot to pieces but the only incursion onto the trackbed until Wearhead is at St Johns Chapel and even that is just a farm shed.
 

marsker

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EAstgate to Wearhead closed in 1953, 40 years before the line to Eastgate. Also I believe the bridge over the Wear just beyond Eastgate is in very poor condition.
Eastgate to Wearhead actually closed in 2 stages, it was certainly still in use to St John's Chapel when I visited it on 10 April 1965 on the RCTS North Eastern No 2 railtour with The Great Marquis in charge. The track beyond though was gone and the line had a substantial buffer stop.
It would certainly be a challenge now to reopen beyond Eastgate. About 20 years ago, there was a plan to build a sort of eco village there on the old cement works site with properties heated by geothermal energy. It seemed to lose favour in the recession in the late noughties.
 

gimmea50anyday

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The track is still in situ as far as Lafarge eastgate and the trackbed has had very little incursion all the way to warhead and can clearly be seen, however I doubt there is any practicality in rebuilding the route that far. I would imagine the priority will be in the bishop Auckland link towards Shildon and Darlington, where the ins with the museums would be a potential advantage I think. There is certainly some activity on the railway and Wolsingham workshops are still very much in use as some ex FGW and GA mk3s and Caley sleeper stock have recently arrived while many of the mk2s are standing in Stanhope station still bearing their christmas (polar) express markings
 

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