NATIONAL Express admitted today it would be wrong to stop enthusiasts watching Britain's newest steam locomotive leave Darlington Station because of health and safety fears.

The Tornado A1 was finally completed last year in Darlington, after a dedicated band of enthusiasts raised £3m over almost two decades to complete the romantic dream of bringing back steam.

But National Express initially said steam fans would not be allowed into Darlington station on Saturday to watch the Tornado pull away on its first trip to London, because the platforms might be too slippy if the cold weather persisted.

It appeared that National Express, which operates the East Coast Main Line, was worried about a large number of visitors turning out to see the Tornado leave at 7.45am in icy conditions.

It originally said only fare-paying passengers would be allowed on to the platforms.

But today, after the decision drew widespread criticism, a National Express spokesman said: "We are fully supportive of the Tornado restoration project, and have noted the depth of local feeling in Darlington today.

"In light of that, we accept this was the wrong decision and we have acted quickly to fix it.

"We will welcome all visitors to the station on Saturday."

The A1 Peppercorn Class train has wowed fans on its trial runs since it was completed, and was the first steam engine to be built in the UK since 1960.

Mark Allatt, chairman of the A1 Steam Locomotive Trust, said: "We are absolutely delighted that the general public will be able to view Tornado as she departs from her Darlington birthplace on Saturday.

"We are all very grateful to National Express East Coast for making this a very special day for Darlington and Tornados supporters."