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There’s a new tourist attraction coming to Darlington, set to bring 200,000 more visitors to the city

This new world class attraction is all about celebrating Darlington’s rich rail heritage.

The first public steam locomotive line was introduced two centuries ago, right in the heart of Darlington. This was a milestone both in the history of the market town, and in the history of UK transportation overall.

Now, a new milestone is set to transform the town again, with the arrival of a game-changing tourist attraction celebrating Darlington’s rich rail heritage. Expectations for this new attraction are so high that a target has been set of drawing an extra 205,000 visitors annually to the town, and to make its 19th century Stockton & Darlington Railway features among Britain’s top 100 attractions.

The anniversary of the locomotive will occur in 2025, and there are plenty of preparations and celebrations taking place between now and then. Councillor Nick Wallis, the authority’s leisure boss, said initiatives ahead of the anniversary are set to be “transformative” for the town, particularly the North Road area. This will help turn the town into “a must-see destination” for visitors from all over the world.

Council members from Darlington Borough and Stockton are overseeing preparations for the milestone, and agreed that Darlington should stage the key anniversary event.

The build up to the 2025 main event will feature a wide range of initiatives designed to cement a lasting legacy, strengthening the town’s cultural offer and provide a one-of-a-kind experience for a vast array of visitors.

The main initiative set to take place in honour of the locomotive anniversary is a complete transformation of the North Road area. This will involve creating a “heritage quarter with a re-imagined visitor experience” – one which will improve transport networks and connections and capitalise on shopping, culture, leisure, tourism and employment opportunities.

In the coming year, key schemes are set to be launched, including a feasibility study to enhance Pease’s House in Horsemarket. This is the location where George Stephenson famously sealed the railway’s contract, and consequentially is “probably the most significant building Darlington has in the railway story.”

Ideas for the building – which now house takeaways – include bringing it into public use and using it to connect the town centre and the North Road heritage quarter.

There are endless possibilities for the upcoming projects, Wallis explains. He comments: “it has been a question of looking at just how ambitious we can be.

“We now have a huge amount to do and in not a lot of time, but all the pieces are in place with all the partners to realise the dream. A lot of money needs to be won to deliver ambitions, but I am confident we can do that.”

As for why North Road has been chosen as the hub of this exciting new activity, Wallis explains: “North Road is entirely the right place to have the big set-piece event for the anniversary. It is not going to take place on a single day. It will take place over weeks, if not months.”

The committee’s chairman, Councillor Bob Carson, says he feels that the plans are making “good progress” on maximising the benefits from railway heritage:

“What we are talking about is a very ambitious programme for 2025. It isn’t just the museum or the town centre, it’s the whole heritage idea. Railway heritage is something people from around the world are interested in. I hope it will bring visitors from not only England, but overseas as well.”

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