A LONG-AWAITED railway station for East Durham could be open as soon as 2016.
A campaign has been ongoing for the area to have its own railway station for several years.
The villages of Horden, Blackhall and Easington had thrashed it out for the facility to be sited in their village.
But in 2011, Durham County Council announced that Horden was the preferred spot.
Now council chiefs have confirmed progress is on track to have the station up and running by spring 2016.
Work could start next year, and the planning process aims to start by the end of the year.
The news has been welcomed by local councillors, who say the new station will open up a world of opportunity for jobseekers.
Durham County Councillor for Horden, Paul Stradling, said: “The funding package is there, and discussions with Northern Rail are progressing satisfactorily.
“The key thing now is timetables arranged so that there will be ample room for stoppage at Horden.
“This is being worked on at present.”
He added: “We have been trying to get this for 12 years.
“Horden’s previous rail station closed around 1962 under Dr Beeching’s cuts.
“It was well-used considering there wasn’t a lot of people travelling out of the village for work because people were working at the colliery. “We need some sort of pathway to the major cities and towns in the region because that’s where the employment is.
“There is going to be opportunities at places like Hitachi and Nissan, but one of the biggest drawbacks is getting there.”
Denise Fielding, operations director at East Durham Business Service, said: “Good transport links are key to the economic growth and success of any area.
“If approved, the new station at Horden will significantly improve the accessibility of East Durham to both commuters travelling into the area for work and potential inward investors looking to expand so we’re pleased to hear that the planning process is expected to begin shortly with a view to building work starting next year.”
Adrian White, the county council’s head of transport and contract services, said: “We are currently working with Network Rail on the business case, proposed design and operation of the new Peterlee (Horden) Railway Station. We aim to begin the planning process before the end of 2014 with a view to starting work in 2015 and with the station opening in spring 2016.
“By providing much easier travel to Newcastle, Sunderland and Middlesbrough, the station will help the 61,000 residents in the surrounding area access jobs and opportunities across the region.
“As well as boosting the local economy and improving the prospects of people in the area it will also encourage more environmentally friendly travel.”
Network Rail say they are working with the council on the project, but are at an early stage of feasibility.