A NEW footpath will trace the route of a historic railway line before linking with the site of a multi-million pound train manufacturing plant.

When the Darlington to Stockton railway line opened in 1825, it was the first public railway to bring together passenger and goods traffic and steam locomotives.

Now the route will provide a new two-mile path for pedestrians, cyclists, horse riders, mobility scooters and families with push chairs between Newton Aycliffe and Shildon.

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It will end up at the doorstep of Hitachi which is bringing train building back to County Durham with work underway on an £82m factory providing 730 jobs.

The route, which will open to the public later this year, will be a three metre wide path which will be low maintenance.

Councillor Neil Foster, cabinet member for economic regeneration at Durham County Council, said: “It is fitting that that this important corridor is brought right up to date at a time when there is major rail investment in the county.

“It will be a link not only between the two towns but also with the past and future. The path will also make active travel a viable and sustainable option to getting to school, work and other services.”

Durham County Council has been working with the landowners Network Rail and has provided £350,000 funding. A further £300,000 has come from the Government via Sustrans Links to Communities Fund.

The path comes within the Local Motion campaign area, backed by Durham County Council, to promote sustainable transport and healthy lifestyles throughout south Durham.

Stephen Hind, route enhancements manager at Network Rail, said: “We’re pleased to be supporting this project which touches on railway history, and will provide a great new pathway for cyclists and pedestrians alike.

“As part of this project, we have installed a new fence, to help make sure people who use the new path and the railway are kept safely apart.”