A HERITAGE group aims to boost North-East tourism by creating a footpath and cycle track along the route of the world's first passenger railway.

The Friends of the 1825 Stockton and Darlington Railway is drawing up plans to develop the 26-mile route of the line.

The proposals are still at an early stage but the friends group hopes to attract rail enthusiasts to the area to provide an economic boost to the region.

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Alan Macnab, organiser of the friends group, said: “We have something unique here. We want to raise the profile of the railway as it was the first steam passenger railway in the world.

“This is not just of local or national importance but of international importance as railways changed the way that we travel.

“We hope to bring in tourism with a footpath and cycle track to help boost regeneration locally and to create jobs as tourism is a multi-million pound industry.

“I’ve no idea how much it will cost to create but it’s a worthwhile and exciting idea.”

The railway ran from Witton Park Colliery, near to Bishop Auckland, via Darlington to Stockton between 1825 and 1863.

It was built to connect County Durham’s coal mines with Stockton and Darlington.

Northern Rail still operates on a track which follows the route of the original line near Bishop Auckland and also at Middleton St George, near Darlington.

At present the friends group is trying to locate the exact route of the 1825 line as some of it has become lost over time.

The friends group is in talks with bodies across whose land the railway passes such as Stockton Council and Darlington Borough Council.

Funding applications are to be lodged and it is hoped to have the work underway by the railway’s 200th anniversary in 2025.

The Brusselton Bridges Preservation Group, which is looking to repair two damaged bridges on the route of the railway near to Shildon, County Durham, is offering help.

Mike O’Neill, of the Brusselton group, said: “We’d like to tie in with this but it’ll take a lot of hard work to make the scheme happen.”

Details on the scheme can be found at facebook.com/groups/304912612980375/