PLANS to turn a main line station into a regional hub for rail services have been unveiled.

The plans to update Bank Top Station, in Darlington, have been drawn up by Network Rail as part of a scheme to improve journey times on the East Coast Main Line and bring the station into the 21st Century.

The scheme has been described by officers at Darlington Borough Council, which has been invited to take part in the project, as an opportunity for the station to cement its place as a key asset for Tees Valley and become a gateway for the proposed Tees Valley Metro service.

The changes could include:

• A new platform to serve southbound trains and local services;
• The conversion of platform four to serve Bishop Auckland services at the northern end and possible bus services at the south;
• An east entrance to the station, in Garbutt Square;
• And potential shops in the station portico, in Victoria Road.

The scheme will also include work by Network Rail to change the track layout in and around Bank Top Station to allow the new Intercity Express Programme, due to be built in Newton Aycliffe, to access Darlington and increase the frequency and speed of London to Edinburgh trains.

A report prepared for Darlington Borough Council’s cabinet, which will decide whether to take part in the plans next week, raises the prospect of a number of wider benefits for the region.

They include a stronger timetable between Darlington and Middlesbrough, as part of the Tees Valley Metro, as well as a potential Metro stop at Teesside University’s campus in Darlington.

Councillor Chris McEwan, the cabinet member for economy and regeneration, said: “I am extremely excited at the prospect of this development.

It is highly significant and while we face challenging times, we need to remain ambitious about the future of the town.

“I think it opens up regeneration opportunities and while it is early days, it is quite significant and we are starting to think through how we take this forward.”