In the birthplace of the railways, officials are stopping sightseers from waving off the first main line steam locomotive to be built in Britain for half a century.

A HISTORIC moment in railway history – the first commercial main line trip by Britain’s new £3m steam locomotive – has been ruined for enthusiasts who have been barred from a North- East station by “jobsworth” rail bosses.

National Express says it will not allow the public onto the platform at Darlington station when the world famous Tornado leaves on Saturday for London’s King’s Cross Station – because it is too cold.

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Officials claim the earlymorning start could make the platform at Darlington too slippery – and have banned sightseers on health and safety grounds.

The move means enthusiasts who want to witness the historic moment will have to watch from bridges or vantage points along the East Coast Main Line.

The sleek locomotive, which has made headlines around the world, was built in Darlington by a dedicated band of volunteers in a project taking nearly two decades.

It is the first main line steam locomotive to be built in this country in nearly 50 years.

Over the past few months, as Tornado has been carrying out test runs, thousands of people have gathered along stations and tracks to witness it steaming across the region.

But on Saturday, only farepaying passengers will be allowed onto the platform at Darlington to see the Peppercorn class A1 steam locomotive when it leaves at 7.45am.

It is the first time Tornado has stopped in Darlington since it left its home town in August last year for tests.

Saturday’s journey will also be the first time the public can travel on the train on the East Coast Main Line.

The mayor of Darlington, Councillor Ian Haszeldine, who will wave the Tornado off on its journey, said the ban was disgraceful.

He said: “I find it highly upsetting that a national company is not showing support for local people and local industry.

“This jobsworth attitude is not the right sort of attitude.”

Deputy mayor Jim Ruck said: “Darlington is a railway town first and foremost.

“The logical thing to do in this situation is to have a massive celebration with all the publicity it will bring.”

The chairman of town development group Darlington Partnership, Alasdair Mac- Conachie, said: “I am appalled that this is an opportunity to showcase Darlington which is going begging.

“We need to do everything we can to promote the town to the outside world and we need to take advantage of this great PR opportunity. We have between now and Saturday to sort something out.”

Last night, the chairman of the A1 Steam Locomotive Trust, Mark Allatt, said he was unaware the restrictions would be in place.

He said: “This is the first I have heard of this, but I am going to have a conversation with National Express.”

Barriers at Darlington station have been in place since December. They caused controversy when a mother was not allowed on the platform to say goodbye to her RAF engineer son, who was leaving for service overseas.

A National Express spokesman said the weather forecast on Saturday was -2C, with potentially more snow.

He said: “We have had to carefully balance the desire to view Tornado with the need to keep Darlington station safe for everyone.

“While we do proactively treat platforms to tackle the build-up of ice, we are concerned that the expected weather conditions may make it unsafe for large numbers of people to use the station for viewing the train.

“For safety reasons, we have therefore decided that the staffed ticket gates normally in place on the station must remain in operation next Saturday morning.

“There are many alternative locations along the route to the south of the station where viewing and photography of the train can be enjoyed safely.”