TEES Valley leaders have welcomed the first instalment of funds released by the Department of Transport for rail developments in the region.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps MP has pledged £11 million of funding to develop Darlington and Middlesbrough stations, a split of of £8.7 million and £2.45 million respectively.

Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen said the latest tranche of funding shows the government’s commitment to improving rail connectivity and services for North-East travellers.

He said: “I have already pledged almost £50 million to develop a package of improvements to both Middlesbrough and Darlington Stations and today’s announcement will provide thousands of passengers in Teesside, Darlington and Hartlepool the faster, more frequent and better quality services that they deserve.

“Access to good quality reliable and affordable public transport is key to my jobs plan for local workers. It’s pointless creating good-quality, well paid jobs if hard working local people cannot easily get around the region.

"Increasing the frequency of services and train routes is a key part of my plan for workers, local jobs and wages.

“It is of paramount importance that my £140 million plans will future proof Darlington to meet HS2 demand, improve capacity and access for local services, and an upgraded station at Middlesbrough will allow for better freight connections as well as deliver more train services to the town, including the first direct rail link to London in decades.”

Councillor Heather Scott, leader of Darlington Council and Tees Valley Combined Authority Cabinet lead for transport, who hopes residents will join her in welcoming the announcement, said: “This is a big step forward for the ambitious plans to transform Darlington Bank Top station for generations to come.

“Efforts to secure an upgrade for our historic station have been in train for many years, and have involved a great number of organisations and individuals working together.

"This announcement and the latest exciting progression for this project will have wide-reaching economic and social benefits, not just in our own borough, but across the Tees Valley and the wider region.”

Darlington MP Peter Gibson also welcomes the announcement, which builds on the money committed by Mr Houchen and the additional funds committed by Chancellor Rishi Sunak.

He said: "I warmly welcome the release of the first tranche of funds from Government for the expansion and improvement of Darlington Station.

"Improving connectivity is key to our levelling up agenda and I will continue to push for more infrastructure investment in our town, including the continuing to press minister for the road from Great Burdon to the A1."