Station parking hopes are still some way off
Several stumbling blocks still need to be overcome if hopes of creating extra parking at Berwick railway station are to become a reality.
Northumberland County Council has been in talks with Virgin Trains East Coast and Network Rail about the possibility of using land on the northern site of the tracks.
Network Rail, which currently uses the space next to the castle ruins, has agreed to move if an alternative location can be found, but the initial cost estimate is between £100,000 and £150,000.
The narrow access road off the bottom of Castle Terrace would also need to be widened to accommodate two-way traffic.
This will require an electricity substation to be moved onto land owned by another utility company so further discussions are needed.
Virgin Trains was unsuccessful in its application to the Railway Station Commercial Property Fund scheme. It has reviewed the scheme to see if there is a business case to fund the car park internally and give a return by the end of the franchise. However, it was not very positive given the cost to deliver this facility.
They will evaluate this again when more information on the costs to relocate the Network Rail depot and the works required on the access road and substation are available.
The problem of inadequate parking capacity has proved problematic for several years, with commuters instead parking on nearby streets.
Northumberland County Council has earmarked Local Transport Plan funding to fund the project in part.
Cllr Gavin Jones, Berwick North, said: “It is disappointing that Virgin East Coast failed to secure Government funding to provide additional parking at the railway station. The problem of insufficient parking at the station is one that has gone on for many years. Over the last three years I have been working hard to get a solution.
“One positive is that Network Rail has shown willing to relocate equipment to make way for additional car parking.
“However, given the likely requirement to move an electricity substation, a solution will not be delivered overnight.”
He added: “I will now ask the administration to cost a plan for a car park, as I am determined to see Berwick get a workable solution addressing the lack of parking at the station.”
Virgin are also working with a developer to look at car parking opportunities across their route and Berwick is part of this evaluation. The idea would be for this developer to build and operate any car park.
The rail company is also open to discussing leasing the land rent free to the council, provided the authority funds provision of the car park and operates it on the same basis as the existing station car park.