A MAJOR rail route connecting the region to one of the country's biggest airports will be extended later this year.

TransPennine Express is extending its Manchester rail service to Redcar from December.

The new timetable will operate an hourly service to and from Redcar, and the service will also provide direct access from Redcar to York, Leeds and Manchester, opening up a route for thousands of local people who currently have to change at Middlesbrough.

As part of the new timetable, there will be a temporary cessation of services to the Redcar British Steel station, to allow passengers faster journeys to Redcar Central.

Phase two will hopefully see the route extended even further to Saltburn .

Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen said:“I'm delighted that TransPennine Express are extending their link into Redcar Central, this is a huge step forward and will allow local people to travel direct to York, Leeds and Manchester.

“The next phase of our plan is to ensure the route is extended all the way to Saltburn. This is essential to ensure residents in east Cleveland get the rail connectivity they deserve.

“I continue to work with Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council, Network Rail and TransPennine Express to ensure this second phase link into Saltburn can happen as soon as possible.

“Extending the line is vital if we are to connect our amazing coast with the rest of the north, and give residents of Redcar and Saltburn direct access to into York, Leeds and Manchester.”

Redcar MP Anna Turley said: “I welcome this move by Transpennine Express which will ensure much better transport links for residents and businesses in our borough.

“It’s also important that this will place Redcar on a main line route, rather than being a suburban extension, helping to bring more people into our main town centre.

“This extension was first given the green light a year ago, for a service that was meant to run through to Saltburn, so whilst I’m glad Transpennine are now delivering this, it should include the full route as soon as possible for the benefit of residents in East Cleveland.

“Too often we are promised rail upgrades that are delayed or never delivered, and let’s not forget the pacer trains are still running on our tracks. It’s beyond time that we got the rail investment our area needs and deserves.”

Middlesbrough South and east Cleveland MP Simon Clarke added: "This is great news for people across Redcar and Cleveland and opens up our beautiful coast and countryside to visitors from across the north."