PLANS to expands a railway have received the backing of another prominent North East Politician.

The Weardale Railway which currently runs from Bishop Auckland to Stanhope could see major change in the coming years after plans were announced to expand it.

Now, Ben Houchen the Tees Valley mayor has given his backing to the project.

This comes after the plans got the backing of the area’s four Conservative MPs.

They hope to connect a more frequent passenger service from Darlington to Weardale and investigate the potential for branch line expansion to Crook.

The plans have been received positively by residents and councillors in the area.

Many are looking forward to investment in the area’s transport services.

Ben Houchen, Tees Valley Mayor said: "I'm really delighted to lend my support to this project that will really help Teesside and has the potential to be transformative for Weardale.

"Darlington is already really driving towards being a regional hub and it's great to be able to work with Conservative MPs like Richard Holden, Dehenna Davison, Paul Howell and Peter Gibson to help drive forward the levelling up agenda across our region via another great scheme."

Currently, the Heritage Rail service has been operating on the tracks. Last year Weardale Railway was purchased by the Auckland Project.

The local MPs will be working with The Auckland Project on the expansion including, a revitalised Weardale Line, as well as ‘crucial connections’ for communities along the route, including the possibility of reconnecting Crook and Howden-Le-Wear.

Improved cycling and walking links along and around the route, especially into Bishop Auckland and new stations at villages are proposed.

Connectivity with the Newton Aycliffe Industrial Estate is proposed together with the revitalisation of The Locomotion Pub.

Richard Holden MP said: “We’ve seen what a fantastic ambassador Ben Houchen has been for Teesside already and with the Freeport, Airport and the Treasury's Darlington move, he’s showing what a dynamic local authority and local leadership can deliver.

"I’m very grateful for his support for this project which I believe could be truly transformational in both access to and helping deliver good jobs in Crook, Weardale and the surrounding towns and villages.”