UK Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has announced a £794m investment package to reopen two rail routes that were closed more than 50 years ago.

This funding includes £760m for the delivery of the next phase of the East West Rail project, and restore direct rail services between Bicester and Bletchley for the first time since 1968.

The £34m in funding is intended to reopen the Northumberland line between Newcastle-upon-Tyne and Ashington. The line was closed in 1964 as part of the Beeching cuts.

Shapps also urged local authorities, MPs and community groups to submit bids for the final round of the UK Department for Transport’s Ideas Fund, which is designed to invite proposals to reopen railway lines, services and stations.

Shapps said: “Restoring railways helps put communities back on the map, and this investment forms part of our nationwide effort to build back vital connections and unlock access to jobs, education and housing.

“Returning these routes to their former glory, and progressing work to reopen even more lines and stations shows our commitment to levelling up journeys across the country as we build back better from the pandemic.”

The announcement on funding represents a milestone in the delivery of East West Rail, which will offer improved better connectivity along the Oxford-Cambridge arc and reduce travel time between routes outside of London.

The works between Bicester and Bletchley are also expected to create 1,500 jobs.

This phase of the project will see the construction of a new station at Winslow and enhancements to existing stations along the route, including Bletchley.

Two trains an hour will operate between Oxford and Milton Keynes via Bletchley by 2025.

The funding on the Northumberland line will be put into preparatory works, including land acquisition, detailed design work and early site works.

Among the plans for this project include new stations at Ashington, Bedlington, Blyth Bebside, Newsham, Seaton Delaval and Northumberland Park in North Tyneside.

This project also includes upgrades to the track and changes to level crossings where underpasses or bridges may be required to be constructed.

The latest round of the Ideas Fund will continue until 5 March. Successful bids will be announced later this year.