TRANSPORT Secretary Patrick McLoughlin has agreed to explore plans to expand the Metro system into Washington.
Proposals to extend the Wearside Metro line and create new stations in Washington, as well as in Doxford, Ryhope and Seaham were revealed earlier this year by transport executive Nexus.
The extension project would require massive investment. Nexus is mid-way through a project to refurbish existing stations, facilities and trains, which is costing £500million.
Mrs Hodgson has now raised the issue with the Transport Secretary in Parliament, and secured his backing for more discussion on the project.
She said: “The Secretary of State will be aware that the rolling stock on Tyne and Wear metro is undergoing refurbishment, but that is little consolation to the residents of Washington who do not even have a station.
“Nexus has recently outlined plans for three stations in Washington as part of an extension to the Metro network, and the North East local enterprise partnership has agreed to undertake the business case.
“Will the Secretary of State commit his officials to working closely with both parties to ensure that the business case is as strong and compelling as it can be?”
Mr McLoughlin replied: “I can give the honourable Lady that assurance. The Newcastle Metro has been running for some time and is now undergoing a desperately needed upgrade.
“There is no doubt in my mind that the original Metro regenerated areas that had been in serious decline. We are always looking at ways in which we can best expand those services.
“I am more than happy for those conversations to take place.”
A petition bearing 1,500 signatures – set up by young campaigner Adam Robson – calling for the Metro to be extended to Washington was also tabled in Parliament this week by Mrs Hodgson.
New stations would include Premier Road, Alnwick Road, Doxford, Ryhope, Seaham, The Galleries and two others in Washington.
There have been calls for years for the Metro system to be extended to Washington and other parts of western Sunderland, perhaps using the mothballed Leamside Line.
Taking the Metro to Doxford Park perhaps by using tram-style vehicles, was also suggested as a way of easing parking congestion at the busy business estate.
There are also plans for new-style Metro trains to run on the routes.