CAN’T Buy Me Love was selling in its thousands in record shops when Horden station was saying goodbye to its last trains, writes Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, pictured right. Along with the Beatles came Beeching – Dr Beeching – and that axe of his. Swinging to and fro, felling railway lines and stations across the land.

We lost thousands of stations and thousands of miles of track during the Beeching era, track closures peaking at more than 1,000 miles in 1964 alone, the year of Horden’s demise. Towns and villages found themselves cut off from the fast-shrinking rail network, thrown into dependence on the bus and car.

Few would have guessed in those dark days for railways that, one day, this Great British gift to the world would enjoy a renaissance. But rail is well and truly back, and at the centre of this government’s plans to green transport and level-up our economy, allowing the North East and other regions to reach their full potential.

Horden, if you don’t know it, is on the Durham Coast Line, linking Newcastle to Middlesbrough. The station once served Horden village and its colliery, and the growing new town of Peterlee. We’d think it madness now to deprive a new town of its existing link to the rail network, but that was the logic of the times.

But now Horden station is with us again, thanks to our New Stations Fund, which helps local authorities repair some of the damage of the Beeching years. It will bring rail travel back into the lives of thousands of people – including the more than 20,000 people of Peterlee. They can now use rail to reach Newcastle, Middlesbrough and beyond, increasing their job and leisure opportunities. Congestion on local roads will be eased and commutes made easier.

Back in January, I visited the station site and saw first-hand how it would improve connectivity for thousands of people. Today, as Horden rejoins the railway, I want to thank everyone who helped make this a reality.

But today isn’t just about Horden. We are focused on investing in upgrading and expanding stations across the North East – and that means Darlington and Middlesbrough will benefit too.

We are accelerating proposals to modernise Darlington station, with a raft of enhancements to improve long-distance and local services for passengers. And proposals for Middlesbrough station – one of the busiest in the region – will take us one step closer to a new platform, as well as a much-needed extension to Platform 2. This will allow for longer trains with more seats, increasing capacity and comfort on local services and leading to the first direct services to London in decades. As we continue our recovery from the coronavirus pandemic, I believe we have a responsibility to build back better, keeping a sharp eye on the environmental impact of our infrastructure projects and the welfare of future generations. 

That’s why we have committed to upgrading the East Coast Main Line’s power supply north of Doncaster, so that more electric services can run, reducing journey times while lessening the environmental impact. And the power upgrades between York and Newcastle are due to be completed by December 2022, taking us closer to building a new railway that works for everyone.

That’s backed by a record £48 billion of investment in upgrading our railways – delivering a more punctual and reliable network.

The North East is a region rich in culture and skills – and with the likes of Nissan and Hitachi calling it home, it is a transport manufacturing powerhouse.

People in the North East deserve better in terms of transport infrastructure. For too long, they have had to do with second best. I want you to know that you will not be left behind as Britain builds its way to prosperity in the coming years.

Horden is one small step. But it’s an illustration of how transport investment can change lives for the better. Here’s to many more Beeching reversals. The train, child of the 19th Century, is key to the 21st.