AN MP has spoken of his fresh hopes that plans to move a famous locomotive from the town where it has been displayed for 160 years could be blocked.

Darlington MP Peter Gibson said following a pledge from Prime Minister Boris Johnson earlier this year to do what he could to help keep Locomotion No 1 in the borough, the campaign had received further support from a government minister.

There was widespread consternation in Darlington earlier this year after it emerged The National Railway Museum planned to relocate Robert Stephenson’s 1825 engine from Darlington to its museum in Shildon.

The museum said its guidance meant items should not be loaned permanently and Locomotion No 1’s return would be part of a £4.5m development at its Shildon museum.

But Darlington Borough Council, which has been basing its plans to create a global tourist destination and celebrate the bi-centenary of the Stockton and Darlington Railway around the historic locomotive, said it would “use all and every means available” to oppose the move.

Mr Gibson said as the issue needed bringing to people’s attention again as Locomotion No 1 was of critical importance to the borough’s heritage, he raised his concerns in the House of Commons.

He pressed Caroline Dinenage, minister for digital and culture, for reassurances that Locomotion No 1 would remain sited in Darlington.

In response, she said plans to mark the bi-centenary of the world’s first passenger railway remained on track and also highlighted how Dame Mary Archer, chair of the board of trustees for the Science Museum Group, which runs the National Railway Museum, had agreed to meet with Mr Gibson to discuss the issue.

Mr Gibson said his meeting with Dame Archer had been delayed due to the pandemic, but was hopeful talks could be held soon.

He said it was also crucial that the weight of Darlington’s community was brought to bear and called on residents to sign the petition on Darlington Borough Council’s website to keep the locomotive in the town.

The Conservative MP added: “We need to save Locomotion No 1 for Darlington as it is central to the town’s identity. There are references to it everywhere.”