PLANS to extend the railway network to Consett from the Metrocentre would ‘tear up’ a well-used country footpath and cycle way and force people from their homes, an MP has warned.

Tory MP for North-West Durham Richard Holden has confirmed the full details of his application for a feasibility study into the project, which was one of his pre-election pledges to voters.

But now Labour’s Liz Twist, who represents the neighbouring constituency of Blaydon, has said the scheme would affect the Derwent Walk, which popular with walkers, cyclists and horseriders.

Ms Twist said: “Our much-loved Derwent Walk Country Park is used by tens of thousands of local families every year for exercise and leisure.

“The proposal to return this railway line 70 years after it was discontinued would tear up a vital community facility and nature habitat, home to rare species such as the Red Kite.

“Mr Holden also acknowledges some of my constituents’ homes would have to be demolished in order to complete the project. So, it’s vital that everyone affected by his proposal is consulted, properly.

“We must start to focus on our regional priorities, which after ten years of Tory cuts have fallen drastically behind. I know my constituency and the love people have for the country park, as demonstrated by the strong and supportive response when this became public, and I will continue to do right by them.”

Mr Holden has submitted a formal application to the Ideas Fund, part of the Restoring Your Railways Fund, a Government-led initiative being driven by the Department for Transport to improve railway lines across the country.

If the bid is successful, the Transport Department will fund 75 per cent of costs to help fund transport and economic studies to create a business case.

Durham County Council have already pledged to fund 25 per cent of the study, which could cost as much as £50,000.

Mr Holden’s bid includes outline information on economic improvements that a new railway would bring to the area, sets out challenges and makes a strategic case.

He said it also stresses the importance of maintaining and improving the cyclists and walking route.

Mr Holden said: “In the 1950s, Consett had multiple rail lines running into it and now there are none.

“Consett and the surrounding areas are growing hugely.

“Industrial, residential and commercial development of the town have all grown over the past few years and further expansion on plans.

“This has put enormous pressure on the currently lacking local services.

“Currently, roads are at capacity which is damaging both the community and the environment, and limiting both employment and training and educational access.

“The building of a railway line, along with upgrades to the Derwent Walk, will enhance the area, commuting will be easier, tourism will grow, and the area will be revitalised and modernised.

“Residents back my plans and I will continue to campaign to improve our transport links and people’s lives.”