Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen has today hailed two keys steps in driving forward ambitious plans to realise the potential and develop major backing to preserve the heritage of the Stockton and Darlington Railway.
Tees Valley and Durham are the international birthplaces of the modern railway and the forerunners of the industrial revolution. The Stockton & Darlington Railway (S&DR) was opened in 1825 and ran from Witton in County Durham via Darlington to Stockton. It was the point in time at which technological developments, engineering excellence and perseverance were married with financial/business backing that linked populated areas and promoted economic growth and social change which became an inspiration to the world.
A dedicated Rail Heritage Steering Group has been established which is a strong partnership including partners such as Tees Valley Combined Authority, Darlington Borough Council, Durham County Council, Stockton Borough Council, A1 Steam Locomotive Trust, National Railway Museum, Virgin Trains East Coast, Network Rail, Northern Rail, Historic England and the Friends of the Stockton and Darlington Railway.
The Group are ambassadors of an ambitious programme to drive forward the rail heritage agenda under three key objectives:
Protect and conserve the Stockton and Darlington Railway
Interpret the story of the Stockton and Darlington Railway and develop a major world-class visitor attraction
Create outstanding bi-centenary celebrations in 2025
The partnership is delighted to hear the news that their recent application to Historic England to become a ‘Stockton and Darlington Railway Heritage Action Zone’ application has been successful as it demonstrates the strength of this collaborative way of working jointly to drive forward the conservation, preservation of our unique asset, putting it central to the economic growth potential of the area. This will see the first piece of the jigsaw fall into place across the wider Rail Heritage Programme and is a great forward step for the area in our journey to be ambassadors of our unique and precious rail heritage in our run up to the 2025 bi-centenary celebrations and our perspective bid for Tees Valley to become City of Culture in 2025.
John Glen, Minister for Arts, Heritage and Tourism announced that the scheme would benefit the railway, which will mark its bi-centenary in 2025 after opening in 1825. Honouring the occasion with outstanding celebrations is also a key aim of the Steering Group.
Welcoming the announcement, Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen said: “I am delighted the Stockton and Darlington Railway has been chosen as a Heritage Action Zone.
“This is not only an opportunity to highlight the immeasurable impact that the Tees Valley has had on the global stage in the past, it will also help secure our tourist trade and boost the area’s economy in the present. And it will undoubtedly act as an inspiration for future industry, development and innovation in the region”
The news comes as the Group seeks £4million in Northern Cultural Regeneration Funding from the Government to realise its first priority, the development of the first phase of the Rail Heritage Quarter.
Led by the Tees Valley Combined Authority alongside the A1 Stream Locomotive Trust and Darlington Borough Council, this major project includes the development of a world-class railway centre will also provide expansion opportunities for the Trust and attract people from across the globe. ”