A CAMPAIGN that could see a new rail link between Consett and Tyneside has been officially launched.

North West Durham MP Richard Holden submitted a formal expression of interest to the Department for Transport to request progress on the scheme.

It is the first stage of what will be a long-term campaign and follows an election pledge, in which he said he would look getting the Metro rail network extended.

If the expression of interest succeeds, a feasibility study will take place to assess the local transport needs and demand.

Mr Holden, who replaced Laura Pidcock as the town’s MP in December, said: “I campaigned on connecting and levelling up North West Durham and that’s exactly what I plan to deliver.

“Over the last six months I have been working incredibly hard to deliver on my election pledges and for the people of North West Durham.

“I am hopeful that the Government recognises that North West Durham needs this vital link to help drive further much needed investment into my constituency.”

The feasibility study will determine whether a project has overarching economic merit and is technically viable.

It will also demonstrate to those potentially funding the project whether it is worthwhile and will result in a good social and economic rate of return.

The study would include economic forecasts for the project, outline technical specifications, including where the line would run, and an analysis of the demand for such a project.

If successful, the scheme could receive money funds from the Government’s new “Beeching fund”, which is part of the drive to re-open former rail routes.

Mr Holden’s formal expression of interest follows months of meetings with local and national stakeholders, including Gateshead Council, Durham County Council, local councillors from all parties, Transport for the North and both Ministers and the Secretary of State in the Department for Transport.

Mr Holden is leading on the project and claims he has the support of many local stakeholders.

The formal submission bid for funding now has to be completed by mid-June when it will be assessed by the Department for Transport and a decision made as to whether a feasibility study will take place.

The feasibility study is expected to cost tens of thousands of pounds, with 75 per cent of this from the DfT and the remainder from local authorities in the area.

Mr Holden said: “I am delighted that we reached a point where I could kickstart the formal process and, as I promised, will work with people of any political party and none to deliver for my community.

“I promised people of North West Durham that I would do everything I could to improve the transport for the area and this is one of many steps I am taking to deliver for my constituents.”