Things are hotting up in the campaign to re-open a rail link to and from Easington Colliery in county Durham, a town which had yet to recover from the collapse of coal mining when it was hit by the recession.
The former pit community, whose mine closed in 1993, is the fourth most deprived ward in England and has the unwanted, if unofficial, tag of 'the obesity capital of the UK' to cope with as well.
Its problems would not be solved overnight by better communications but it would certainly benefit if trains were available to take commuters to Teesside and Tyneside, where there is more chance of work.
The infrastructure is largely there in 'the Halt' station and line which went out of service in the 1950s. Estimates of up to £2,000,000 to get things going again are challenging in the context of the public spending cuts. But the Newcastle-based property developer Tony Mann believes that it can be done.
He has been out in the town in stationmaster's gear, including whistle and flag, to drum up support for a 'Re-open' campaign. He says:
The need is getting greater all the time. The North-East has just recorded unemployment figures of 142,000 people - the highest increase for over 16-years and one which makes our the region the worst affected in the country.
Mann has been thwarted before at Easington, when he tried to demolish a disused school to build houses and flats. He won the support of local councillors and a 500-strong petition, but conservationists persuaded an inquiry in 2007 that more could be done to find new uses for the handsome Victorian building. It still stands empty and remains a priority for the East Durham Area Action Partnership.
Mann says that he has suffered repeated frustration over the rail plan in approaches to Durham county council, the department of transport and the office of successive Prime Ministers. The nearest to progress so far has been rumour that Horden, two miles away, might be reconnected to Tees-Tyne trains, but that would still mean a two mile bus ride, or walk, from Easington Colliery.
We have to decide if it's cheaper to invest in ways to get people back to work or to keep on shelling out millions, year upon year, in benefits.One of the town's job-seekers, 29-year-old Tammy Stephenson who lost her county council job in May, is helping the campaign. She has both a small son and a degree in psychology and criminology and would be more than happy to commute to Newcastle, Sunderland, Hartlepool, Stockton-on-Tees or Middlesbrough.
It is common sense to open up an area like Easington Colliery which desperately needs to enable people to travel to work. They'd be no more than half-an-hour by train from all the north east's major cities.
The problem is that there are very few job opportunities here in east Durham. I am constantly checking online job sites for work and finding that opportunities for me – ideally in outreach work with vulnerable adults - are just too far to travel. I'm extremely frustrated as the jobs I could do are in Newcastle and Teesside.