A CAMPAIGN to reopen of an historic Durham railway viaduct as a bridleway and cycleway is gathering pace.

The Friends of Kepier Woods group is calling for the Grade II Listed Belmont Viaduct, also known as Frankland or Brasside Viaduct, to be brought back into use as an “exciting tourist and leisure project”.

The Friends chairman and Belmont parish councillor, Michael Watson, said: “We all hope that Durham County Council listens to the huge public clamour for this new route to be made available as soon as possible.

The Northern Echo:

“The project sits well with current Government and county council policies to create new footpaths and cycle ways with funding available and environmental plans for a reduction in carbon emissions.

“Opening up the Belmont Viaduct would negate the need for many cars, as the route could be accessed by many people commuting between the communities and beyond.”

Cllr Watson said the land on both sides of the Belmont Viaduct had been secured by Durham County Council as part of a proposed northern relief road – rejected by a planning inspector.

He added: “This exciting tourist and leisure project, that would be a huge welcome addition to the local tourist economy by linking together the fantastic walking route from Durham city, via Kepier Hospital, through gorgeous Kepier Woods, over the Viaduct and down Frankland Lane back into Durham.

“We would add that reopening the Belmont Viaduct also opens up the way to Low Newton Junction Local Nature Reserve and could give access to the new Frankland Wood that is being planted for December 2021.

“The cycle way could link into the National Sustrans cycle route located nearby and link with the West Rainton cycle route alongside the A690. There would be ample capacity to gain access for Belmont park & ride to provide a transport hub.

The Belmont Viaduct was completed in 1856 for the Auckland branch of the North Eastern Railway, (now the East Coast mainline) to link up with the former Leamside Line, which connected Durham to Gateshead, South Shields and Sunderland.

The iconic Victorian Viaduct infrastructure is 130 feet high with 8 expansive arches and is located straddling across the River Wear in beautiful Kepier Wood and Frankland Woods near Belmont and Brasside, Durham respectively.

The Friends of Kepier Woods group has the support of Belmont Parish Council, Framwellgate Moor Parish Council and the City of Durham Parish Council. Durham Greenpeace and the Durham Green Party.

Dave Wafer, the county council’s interim head of transport and contract services, said: “We share the aspiration to reopen the Belmont Viaduct, however the structure itself is in need of significant repair and will require substantial investment before it can be used by the public.

“Whilst national funding has recently been made available for walking and cycling projects, the criteria has been very specific and targeted at short-term measures.

“There are currently no suitable funding opportunities for this type of project, however this is kept under constant review and the project has been included in the recent consultation on the regional local transport plan.”