BOSSES at a company with ambitious proposals to bring new rail services to Hartlepool and east Durham say plans are still on track to deliver the scheme.
Chiefs at Tees Trains, a new community-interest company, say their trains could be up and running by May 2014 if their plans get the go-ahead.
The Hartlepool Mail reported in July that the Castle Eden-based firm proposes new rail services which would include a route linking east Durham, Hartlepool, Billingham and Teesside.
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It plans to apply for private funding for its own trains and money from authorities such as regional development agencies or European funding for stations.
The company has been holding public consultation meetings across the area over the last few months and listening to people’s views.
It has also began talks with industry partners, including Network Rail.
David Masterman, one of the company’s four directors, said: “We have started negotiations with all the people we need to speak to.
“We haven’t signed any contracts yet.
“We also had a week of going to various places across Teesside, east Cleveland and east Durham and some of the meetings were well-attended.
“There were a few people who were not quite cynical, but did wish us good luck and doubted we would make progress.
“But everybody without exception we spoke to has been positive about what we propose and said it is a good idea.”
Mr Masterman, who has 20 years experience in the railways, said all the industry contacts the company has been in touch with have also given positive feedback.
“We have had initial discussions with Network Rail and our contact there was quite positive about our proposals,” he added.
“We have spent all of this year finding out those things we need to do.
“The next step is to actually go and do them and that’s to agree things like contracts for leasing trains and getting access onto the railway network.
“The date we are working to is May 2014 for getting the first trains on the tracks.
“We are working through all the different contracts with various industry partners and building up a management structure.”
Mr Masterman said following consultations, there had been slight amendments to the plans, including “relegating” proposals for new stations at venues including Hart Station, Blackhall Rocks and Old Billingham.
Mr Masterman added: “We are quite optimistic for 2012.
“We have made some really big steps this year.
“Everybody we speak to, such as members of the public, people in the industry or rail user groups, have all been 100 per cent positive.”