TRANSPORT Secretary Patrick McLoughlin visited Wearside to see the Port of Sunderland get back on track.
Trains began running on the port’s rail lines for the first time in more than 20 years today as the facility goes from strength to strength.
Mr McLoughlin was among those at port today to see a locomotive run on its newly-connected lines as part of a trial run organised with rail freight haulier DB Schenker Rail UK and Network Rail.
The rail system will soon be used for commercial operations to help increase business and improve operations at the port.
“It’s fantastic to once again have rail connections at Port of Sunderland,” he said.
“We have always enjoyed great access to open sea, and the port is well placed in terms of its links to major roads and airports.
“However, for more than 20 years, Port of Sunderland has not seen any rail traffic coming into its heart.
“To have lines connected into the port is a huge step forward for us and it really was an important moment for us to see the lines in use once again. It was great to share that with the Transport Secretary.”
The light rail trial came after work by Network Rail to reinstate the former line into the port during December 2014 and January 2015.
Mr Hunt said the work is a boost to the import and export credentials of the port, which is at the heart of the North East coastline but has not had working train lines for more than 20 years.
The port will now be able to put to use its rail links and take on freight projects.
Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin said: “As part of the Government’s long term economic plan, we are investing record amounts in improving road and rail connections so that ports like Sunderland can realise their full potential and contribute to regional growth.
“The reconnection of the port’s rail link will boost its import and export capabilities significantly. I am proud to see this historic port being put firmly on the map again for freight and maritime projects and gearing up for more business.”
Trial journey is first of many
DB Schenker Rail UK provided a 22 metre long locomotive for use on the lines. It is expected that the port will use the lines over the coming months as a means of supporting the increasing number of cargo handling projects it is managing.
Neil McDonald, head of sales at DB Schenker Rail UK, said: “Britain’s ports are a vital link to overseas markets, but landing cargo in the port is not the end of the journey. Excellent transport links from ports to cities are essential in order for shippers to reach their final customer, and rail ensures low carbon, low congestion transport.
“Ports play a crucial part in DB Schenker Rail’s growth strategy and we are delighted to bring rail back to Port of Sunderland.”
The port saw almost half a mile of rail lines reconnected by Network Rail, a boost to its cargo handling capabilities. Port of Sunderland already handles more than 700,000 tonnes of cargo each year.
Mark Tarry, area director for Network Rail, added: “It is fabulous to see rail traffic once more running at the port of Sunderland. Network Rail is committed to supporting the local economy and to promoting the use of rail freight. Reconnecting this line supports both of those aims. We look forward to continue to work with the port as they seek to attract new rail freight business to the area.”
As well as the rail connections, the port is also set to be boosted when work begins on the third Wear crossing in 2015. Described as a ‘strategic transport corridor’, the new bridge will better connect the port to trunk roads like the A19 and A1, ensuring that access is as straightforward as possible.
Councillor Paul Watson, leader of Sunderland City Council and chair of the port board, said: “The successful use of the lines – with the support of DB Schenker and Network Rail - is a really positive step for Port of Sunderland, and a boost to its import and export capabilities.
“The port has enjoyed a significant programme of investment, and we have made some really important strategic decisions to ensure that we strengthen its position in the market. The addition of working rail lines can only further our work and put Sunderland firmly on the map for a range of maritime projects.”
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