TEES Valley Mayor Ben Houchen said choosing the Stockton and Darlington Railway (SDR) as a Heritage Action Zone would secure tourist trade and boost the area’s economy.

The Tees Valley Combined Authority is one of several partners in a Rail Heritage Steering Group, which is now separately seeking £4m from the Government’s Northern Cultural Regeneration Fund to help develop the first phase of a Rail Heritage Quarter in Darlington.

The project, centred on the North Road area of the town and also involving Darlington Borough Council and the A1 Steam Locomotive Trust, envisages the creation of a world-class railway centre to attract people from across the globe.

The Action Zone status has been described as the “first piece in the jigsaw” and a great step forward in the run-up to the 2025 bi-centenary celebrations of the SDR.

Mr Houchen said: “This is not only an opportunity to highlight the immeasurable impact that the Tees Valley has had on the global stage in the past, it will also help secure our tourist trade and boost the area’s economy in the present.

“And it will undoubtedly act as an inspiration for future industry, development and innovation in the region.”