The principal objective of the Aln Valley Railway Project is the restoration and operation of the railway between Alnmouth and Alnwick, providing an additional tourist attraction for the area and to enlarge the district's tourism offering. Promoted by the 'Aln Valley Railway Trust', and its associated 'Aln Valley Railway Society', this project also aims to develop the railway corridor as a sustainable transport link as well as a recreational and educational resource for the local community and visitors to the area.
Due to the construction of the A1 bypass which cut the original trackbed on the outskirts of the town and the costs associated with building an over bridge, a new station is being built on a site in Lloyd's Field, adjacent to the Lionheart Enterprise Park. This area has ample space for the railway premises, station, visitor facilities and car parking. The new 'Lionheart Station', as it is to be known, will be aligned parallel to the A1 from where a single track line will join and follow the original trackbed to Alnmouth Station, near Hipsburn. Ultimately heritage steam and diesel locomotives will haul trains of up to four coaches in length between the two locations. As an integral part of the project, a permissive cycle path will run alongside the full length of the railway line, linking up with the National Cycle Network at Alnmouth and the A1068 road next to the A1. This will provide a safe corridor for cyclists, pedestrians and riders, and could also form the basis for an educational nature trail. Combined heritage railway and cycle paths are not unique – the Avon Valley Railway and the Bristol & Bath Cycle Path run alongside each other successfully. Once the line is complete and with suitable infrastructure in place, it would be possible to timetable services to link with main line passenger trains. A park and ride facility at Lionheart Station would relieve pressure on parking around Alnmouth Station. Equally, visitors arriving by train at Alnmouth could continue their journey to Alnwick and other tourist attractions by rail, bus, cycle and foot. Two phases for development are proposed; Phase 1 from Lionheart to Greenrigg Bridge and Phase 2 onwards to Alnmouth Station. Planning permission for Phase 1 has now been granted. Projected timescale is 5 years from commencement.
Aln Valley Railway Trust Involvement
The Aln Valley Railway Society was formed in 1995 with the aim of re-opening the branch as a heritage steam railway attraction. The Trust was then set up to safeguard the assets of the railway and was granted charitable status. The plan to reopen was formally launched in 1997 with much public and other support. Unfortunately, the rejection of a Heritage Lottery application meant the project was unable to continue. A Public Right of Way claim over the old trackbed delayed the project until late 2007 when a Public Inquiry rejected the claim. Since then the Trust has been actively managing the project, commissioning a number of studies covering environmental, traffic management and earthwork issues. A feasibility survey has shown the railway would break even with as few as 10000 passengers per year. With the popular attractions of Alnwick Garden, Alnwick Castle and Barter Books nearby and good transport links, the Aln Valley Railway Project has the prospect of being a sure-fire asset to the local tourist economy.