Page last updated at 13:10 GMT, Thursday, 28 January 2010

Daily trains return to the Weardale railway line

Weardale train
The Weardale Railway reopened in July 2004

Daily passenger services are returning to a County Durham heritage railway line this summer almost 60 years after they were withdrawn.

The American owners of the Weardale Railway have announced plans for a new service between Stanhope and Shildon starting in May.

Five modern diesel trains a day will run in each direction using a new link to the rail network at Bishop Auckland.

The link is expected to boost the region's tourism industry.

Weardale Railway general manager Alistair Gregory said: "2010 is going to see a considerable growth in activity on the line due to the large capital injection into the railway by the new owners British American Rail Services."

Railway inspectors this week travelled along the 18-mile stretch of track between Stanhope and Bishop Auckland checking bridges, fences and road and footpath crossings.

Two steam charter trains are scheduled to use the line next month - a 12-coach train operated by UK Railtours from King's Cross to Stanhope and a tour from Crewe to Stanhope by Spitfire Rail Tours.

Before the trains will run, British Transport Police will mount an operation to warn off people who have been using the track as a footpath.

The line was originally built by the Stockton and Darlington Railway in 1847 and the passenger service was withdrawn in 1953. It was used for freight until 1993, and mothballed.

It was kept alive by local volunteers, with the help of lottery and European grants until it was taken over by its current owners in 2008.

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