CHANCELLOR Rishi Sunak has today used his first budget to announce that the redevelopment of Darlington railway station will be approved and fully funded.

The £80million ask of Government came following months of discussions between the Department of Transport, the Treasury and Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen on the importance of the upgrade in order to improve rail travel across the North-East.

The funding is on top of a £25million investment committed to help deliver the vision for the station, which, it is hoped, will unlock local capacity across the region.

The plan will create a new local station and train platforms at Darlington Station, which will see rail capacity increase by more than 300 per cent, taking the current two trains an hour across the region up to a possible eight trains an hour.

Mayor Houchen said: “I am thrilled the Chancellor has backed this £105m scheme at Darlington station, which is essential to Teesside, Darlington and Hartlepool getting better rail services. Something that is badly needed across our area.

“The plan to transform Darlington station is a key building block to improving rail travel not just in Darlington, but across the whole of Teesside, Darlington and Hartlepool.

“This long overdue project will put more trains on the local lines, cut journey times, improve regional transport links and give visitors an incredible welcome to the area.

“I’ve been making the case for Darlington station from the day I was elected, and we now have the money to deliver, but I will not rest until I see spades in the ground.

“We’re making sure our roads and public transport works for all out towns and villages and we are making good progress.”

It is hoped it gives the area a hugely improved local and national service and futureproofs the station for future HS2 services.

The scheme will also see improvements to the fabric of the station, including improved entrances, and the regeneration of the wider area around the station.

Once complete, the upgraded station will allow for better freight connections from Teesport and prepare the station for high-speed services and Northern Powerhouse Rail.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: “I’ve seen for myself the investment needed at Darlington Station.

"Thanks to the championing of Ben Houchen and Peter Gibson, I’m pleased that the Chancellor announced today this project is moving ahead.

"This project will help open up connectivity across the North.”

Dennis Fancett, spokesperson for Railfuture North East, said the Chancellor’s commitment to Darlington, and the wider regeneration of the area, was welcome but also offered a word of caution.

He said: “New platforms to the east of the current station will allow more southbound trains in particular to call at Darlington, without having to cross the northbound lines to reach the platforms.

“Increasing capacity through Darlington is a positive step which we support.

“We are however concerned if the detail of the plan removes the ability for local trains from Bishop Auckland to run through to Teesside.

“This is an important facility as 50 per cent of the passengers from Bishop Auckland are not travelling to Darlington itself but are travelling through it, so we believe it is important this facility to be retained.”