Bishop Auckland Station and Weardale Railway Connecting Path Opening Event

On Monday 3rd April, the rail industry and its stakeholders came together to celebrate the connection of three communities by means of a new pathway.

The new path at Bishop Auckland station makes is easier and safer for passengers to access Weardale Railway services whether arriving on a Bishop Line train from Darlington or using Bishop Auckland as a terminus. As a result the communities of Weardale, Bishop Auckland and Darlington are better connected to each other by rail.

The event was attended by His Majesty’s Lord-Lieutenant of County Durham, Mrs Sue Snowdon: Peter, Lord Hendy of Richmond Hill, Chair of Network Rail; Jonathan Ruffer, Founder of The Auckland Project; and representatives from the rail industry and local communities.

His Majesty’s Lord-Lieutenant of County Durham, Mrs Sue Snowdon said “I was delighted to be asked to formally open the new path at Bishop Auckland Station which makes it easier to access the Weardale Railway services. I was joined by Peter, Lord Hendy of Richmond Hill, Chair of Network Rail; Jonathan Ruffer, of the Auckland project and representatives from the rail industry; local civic representatives; members of the local communities and the Railway Youth Team who were first class. The path provides an accessible route from the Bishop Line to the Weardale Railway services allowing passengers with buggies, wheelchairs or cycles to interchange with greater ease. We have many hidden gems in County Durham, the Weardale Railway and the stunning scenery in Weardale is most definitely one.”  

This project has been joint funded by Network Rail, The Department for Transport’s Community Rail Development Fund through the Bishop Line Community Rail Partnership, Weardale Railway Ltd and Weardale Railway Trust.

Peter, Lord Hendy of Richmond Hill, Chair of Network Rail and the Railway Heritage Association, said: “The heritage of our railways – particularly in the North East – is hugely significant and it’s vital for attracting tourism and supporting economies. Making railway heritage accessible to more people is something I am deeply passionate about and I’m delighted that by working collaboratively, this new pathway has re-opened the route to the Weardale Railway that will allow even more people to visit this fantastic attraction.”

The project reinstates the historic platform link between the end of the Bishop Auckland station platform where Northern services arrive from the Bishop Line, and the Weardale Railway platform where services depart for Stanhope. It was the original east to west platform of the former triangular Bishop Auckland station.

Jonathan Ruffer, Founder of the Auckland Project, said “I see this walkway as a marriage between the Weardale Railway and the National Railway Network, with Bishop Auckland at the heart of it, exactly where it should be.”

David Maddan, Chair Weardale Railway Ltd comments “This infrastructure work is of great significance for passengers using both Northern and Weardale Railway services. I am grateful to all who have helped make it possible.”

The previous walking route was a deterrent to more vulnerable members of the community such as the elderly, passengers with reduced mobility and families with small children, due to the dark environment and changes of levels. The old route forced passengers to make a lengthy walk via an uneven, unlit, narrow footpath and a busy service road serving the rear of a DIY store and the town’s post office depot. By linking the two platforms directly we aimed to make the interchange more accessible to all passengers.

Brian Barnsley, Head of Support and Development at Community Rail Network, said: “We are so pleased to have supported through the Community Rail Development Fund the Weardale Railway and Bishop Line CRP pathway project at Bishop Auckland Station. Linking Community Rail with Heritage Railways is so important, especially with the rise in leisure travel. This new pathway will provide an accessible route for passengers of all ages and abilities, in turn creating a safer and more integrated travel experience.”