Campaign launched to celebrate railway heritage across Stockton borough

First published in News The Northern Echo: Photograph of the Author by

TOURISM could be boosted in Stockton if the borough made more of its railway heritage, according to a campaigner.

John Fletcher, a former member of Stockton Borough Council, is calling on the authority to sell itself more enthusiastically as one of the two ‘Birthplaces of the Railways’.

And he believes that cost-effective marketing of the area’s connections to the Darlington to Stockton Railway will help bring visitors to the borough.

The former Mayor of Stockton has submitted his ideas to the authority’s arts, leisure and culture select committee for consideration.

He said: “Stockton Borough is perceived by many of its interested residents as having largely missed out over recent decades on the larger attractions – the National Railway Museum’s Locomotion is at Shildon, on a smaller scale Head of Steam is at Darlington.

"There is neither the opportunity nor the money to try to compete.

“Instead, the borough needs to preserve what physically remains, interpret them to visitors and residents and spread the message of what remains.”

Mr Fletcher suggests broadening the context of the area’s heritage to include engineering and simple measures like improving signage of what remains of the original railway service from 1825.

The report to the council also lists a number of places where the borough’s railway heritage is already marked and asks for interpretative boards to be reinstalled to help visitors locate the buildings and plaques.

His ideas have the backing of Liberal Democrat Eaglescliffe councillor Alan Lewis.

He said: “Stockton needs to tell the world about its railway heritage and should join its neighbours in attracting visitors.

“Many residents of Stockton Borough have told me over the years that they feel that we have failed to ‘sell’ our area as the birthplace of the railways.

“We need to use every opportunity to bring tourist spending into our area.

"In these days of financial stringency, John has suggested a number of relatively inexpensive steps which can be taken, to increase not only potential tourists’ awareness of what we offer, but also civic pride in our residents – who are the area’s best ambassadors when they meet visitors face to face.”

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