On Monday 3 April, rail industry and community groups came together to celebrate the connection of three communities by means of a new pathway.
The new path at Bishop Auckland station makes is easier and safer for passengers to access Weardale Railway services, whether arriving on a Bishop Line train from Darlington or using Bishop Auckland as a terminus. As a result, the communities of Weardale, Bishop Auckland and Darlington are better connected to each other by rail.
The event was attended by His Majesty’s Lord-Lieutenant of County Durham, Mrs Sue Snowdon: Lord Peter Hendy, Chair of Network Rail; Jonathan Ruffer, Founder of The Auckland Project; as well as representatives from the rail industry and local communities.
This project has been joint funded by Network Rail, The Department for Transport’s Community Rail Development Fund through the Bishop Line Community Rail Partnership (CRP), Weardale Railway Ltd and Weardale Railway Trust.
The project reinstates the historic platform link between the end of the Bishop Auckland station platform, where Northern services arrive from the Bishop Line, and the Weardale Railway platform where services depart for Stanhope. It was the original east to west platform of the former triangular Bishop Auckland station.
The previous walking route was a deterrent to more vulnerable members of the community such as the elderly, passengers with reduced mobility and families with small children, due to the dark environment and changes of levels. The old route forced passengers to make a lengthy walk via an uneven, unlit, narrow footpath and a busy service road serving the rear of a DIY store and the town’s post office depot. By linking the two platforms directly, those involved aimed to make the interchange more accessible to all passengers.
Lord Peter Hendy, Chair of Network Rail and the Railway Heritage Association, comments: “The heritage of our railways – particularly in the North East – is hugely significant and it’s vital for attracting tourism and supporting economies. Making railway heritage accessible to more people is something I am deeply passionate about and I’m delighted that by working collaboratively, this new pathway has re-opened the route to the Weardale Railway that will allow even more people to visit this fantastic attraction.”
Brian Barnsley, Head of Support and Development at Community Rail Network, said: “We are so pleased to have supported through the Community Rail Development Fund the Weardale Railway and Bishop Line CRP pathway project at Bishop Auckland Station. Linking community rail with Heritage Railways is so important, especially with the rise in leisure travel. This new pathway will provide an accessible route for passengers of all ages and abilities, in turn creating a safer and more integrated travel experience.”