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Willmott Dixon appointed for £35m Darlington Railway Heritage Quarter

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Willmott Dixon has chalked up its 25th project in the Tees Valley after being selected by Darlington Borough Council to deliver its cutting-edge £35m Railway Heritage Quarter.

Procured via the SCAPE framework, the project will transform the Head of Steam railway museum site off North Road, which includes the Goods Shed and Carriage works, into a tourist attraction that will attract visitors from across the UK and overseas.

The project is being supported by £20million of funding from the Tees Valley Mayor and Combined Authority.

The work will see the design and build of a new Railway Heritage Quarter Museum including the refurbishment of Grade II listed buildings, a new live engineering shed and an immersive experience building which will feature holograms of trains as well as static displays, a café and shop, new public realm, parking provision and a railway themed children’s play area.

Due to complete in 2024, the attraction is anticipated to be ready for the bi-centenary celebrations of the Stockton and Darlington Railway in 2025.

Councillor Jonathan Dulston, leader of Darlington Borough Council said: "This is a once in a lifetime opportunity for us to re-launch Darlington as the birthplace of the railways, the town that financially supported the initial idea of the passenger railway.

“It has taken a great deal of time, passion, energy and ingenuity to reach this stage of the project and it is with a great deal of pride that we set the Railway Heritage Quarter on track for completion in time for the bi-centenary celebrations of the Stockton and Darlington Railway in 2025."

Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen said: “It is fantastic to hear that we’ve got spades in the ground and can officially launch the start of building works on the Darlington Railway Heritage Quarter. This top-quality scheme will include attractions never seen before in our region. It’s yet another project we’re kick-starting in 2022, our year of construction. This is a bit different to the other schemes we’re driving forward this year, from transforming transport to redeveloping Teesworks. It’s no less important, though, and that’s why we committed £20million to make it a reality.

“This ambitious attraction will tell the story of how we helped shape the world through our rail heritage and innovation for generations to come, supporting the 200th anniversary celebrations of the Stockton and Darlington Railway. What’s more, it’ll do so while boosting tourism to support our brilliant local businesses, putting more money in people’s pockets.”

Anthony Dillon, managing director of Willmott Dixon’s Northern operations said: “We are delighted to be once again working in partnership with Darlington Borough Council on an exciting tourist attraction that showcases Darlington’s proud railway heritage, which transformed the local area nearly 200 years ago. Working with our specialist local supply chain partners, we look forward to supporting local businesses and generating prosperity within the Tees Valley.”

The Railway Heritage Quarter development will transform the local area and celebrate the rich heritage of the Stockton and Darlington Railway. Preserving local heritage like this is fundamental to supporting growth across the UK. Combining the vast experience that Willmott Dixon holds in delivering important schemes of this nature, with the speed and socioeconomic benefits of using a SCAPE framework, we’re proud to help Darlington Borough Council accelerate this project, confident that they have a fantastic team in place to deliver an important asset for visitors and the local community to enjoy for years to come.

Mark Robinson

group chief executive at SCAPE

The award of the Darlington Railway Heritage Quarter marks Willmott Dixon’s 25th project in the Tees Valley since 2010 and it’s eighth scheme in Darlington. In May 2020, the company handed over the £8.5m Feethams House office development; a building specifically designed to stimulate the local economy by attracting inward investment and supporting new and growing businesses.

The company are also on site delivering the £8m Innovation Central in Darlington, which once complete will see the delivery of a 2,370 sq m four storey office and laboratory development, creating a purpose-built home for digital and technical businesses and a catalyst for local investment.