FUNDING for a study into whether creating a rail link between Consett and Newcastle is viable has been made available, the MP behind the scheme has confirmed.

Richard Holden, who represents North-West Durham, said the Department for Transport will fund 75 per cent of costs, up to £50,000.

Project Genesis, the regeneration group formed after the closure of Consett’s steelworks to benefit and invest in the local community, have now pledged to pay for the local portion of the study, with funding worth up to £15,000.

Mr Holden said shows the group’s commitment to the idea and means taxpayers in the Durham County Council area will not pay anything towards the study.

He said: “I am absolutely delighted to be able to confirm to Durham County Council that my campaign will be fully funded, not only on a national level but a local level too thanks to the support of Project Genesis.

“The offer from Project Genesis will mean that this feasibility study will cost local taxpayers nothing but will allow the campaign to continue for the benefit of constituents and the area.

“I have been working on this campaign ever since my election as it will be an enormous boost for North-West Durham and the wider North-East.”

The idea has proved controversial as it could involve creating the transport link along the Derwent Walk, which is popular with walkers and cyclists.

Cllr Carl Marshall, the cabinet member for economic regeneration, who also represents Durham on the North East Joint Transport Committee and is the North East board member for Transport for the North, said: “We are committed to working with all of our partners, businesses and Mr Holden on the delivery of this project, which will cover a broad range of transport connectivity issues including rail, buses, walking and cycling.

“At present we have not had a formal offer of financial support from Project Genesis or Mr Holden.”