THE Port of Sunderland is on track for future expansion as its railway line returns to use after more than 20 years.
Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin visited Wearside yesterday to see the results of the £600,000 Network Rail project for himself, with a locomotive running on the line courtesy of rail freight haulier DB Schenker Rail UK.
Port bosses say the reopening of the rail link represents “a huge step forward” in its operations.
“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,” Mr McLoughlin said.
“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.”
Network Rail has carried out work to reinstate the line during the last two months and port director Matthew Hunt is delighted to have the port’s link to the national rail network back up and running.
“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. The support we have had from DB Schenker in supplying a locomotive as a prelude to their use for commercial operations has been fantastic, and means we can officially say that we are ready to take on rail freight handling projects this year.
“We are very much looking forward to attracting more and more projects as a result of the links we now enjoy.”
Mark Tarry, area director for Network Rail, said: “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.”