New look will be arriving at city's station

SUNDERLAND'S dilapidated railway station is to get a long-awaited revamp worth hundreds of thousands of pounds – because of a train service cut.

The station is often dubbed as the worst in the North East and was once described as a "dark hole" by a rail passenger watchdog group.

Now bosses at Nexus, which runs Metro trains through the station, are promising to plough hundreds of thousands of pounds into its redevelopment over the next five years, though the company is unable to give an exact figure yet for how much will be spent.

Nexus says a new arrangement with Northern Trains has given it the financial clout to pay for the work.

In addition to funding Metro services, Nexus has historically given a grant to the operator of the Newcastle to Sunderland service – currently Northern Trains and formerly Arriva.

As revealed in The Echo last week, the half-hourly Northern Trains service between Newcastle and Sunderland is being cut to one per hour.

A Metro will fill in for the axed train, though services south of Sunderland to Seaham and Hartlepool are unchanged.

But it means the grant paid by Nexus to Northern Trains will be halved.

And Nexus says the cash it saves will be poured into Sunderland station's redevelopment over the next five years – on top of work already planned for this year, such as new escalators.

Sunderland Council has been trying to get a massive revamp of the station carried out for many years but has struggled because of a lack of Government cash.

Council leader Coun Bob Symonds said: "This looks like a possible early solution towards the vital investment needed to regenerate the station.

"But we're continuing to press the Strategic Rail Authority, the body responsible for the station, to encourage them to take the necessary steps too."

Mike Parker, Director General of Nexus, said: "There are five Metro trains to Sunderland per hour, each carrying close to one million people each year.

"This is significantly more than the heavy rail service we provide.

"By utilising this fact we can ensure the money we save goes to the right place.

"Although it is difficult to estimate at present how much money we will re-allocate to Sunderland station, I can pledge to the people of Wearside that it will be significant."

Nexus is already planning much-needed improvements to the station this year, including the installation of escalators, the smartening-up of the station's entrance and providing real-time train information.

The RMT rail union has accused the Government of "sending Sunderland to Coventry" by approving the cut in services.