WASHINGTON, Doxford International and even Seaham could get Metro services under ambitious new plans discussed today.
A meeting of the Tyne and Wear Integrated Transport Authority at Newcastle Civic Centre was due to hear how operator Nexus has drawn up plans that could see a massive extension of the network and a new fleet of hi-tech trains.
The proposals include:
•The introduction of a circular route connecting Pelaw, Washington, South Hylton, Sunderland and East Boldon, formed by connecting the disused Leamside line and the former Sunderland to Durham rail line west of South Hylton, with a diversion into the town centre;
•Extending the ‘joint running’ arrangements currently used between Pelaw and Sunderland to allow Metro trains to travel as far as Seaham. Up to three additional stations could be provided;
•A ‘on-street’ tram link from Sunderland city centre, heading north to South Shields via Monkwearmouth and Cleadon, and west to Doxford Park and Doxford International;
•The introduction of a new fleet to replace the existing rolling stock, more suited to on-street operations.
The plans will require massive investment, however, and Nexus is keen to start consultation on the proposals soon in order to bid for Government funding.
Director general Bernard Garner said: “We’ve developed a long-term strategy for Metro, which explains how it will continue to play a vital role in providing sustainable transport vital to the region’s future prosperity. The key objective of the strategy is to secure a new fleet to replace the existing trains, which has been in use since 1980. It also identifies a number of new route corridors potentially suitable for Metro operation, using the most appropriate technology to meet the needs of each location.
“This could mean Metro or something similar, like street-running trams or high-quality bus routes.
“By 2021 the vast majority of Metro’s assets like track, bridges and drainage, will have been renewed to a condition that will ensure their effective operation decades into the future.
“The major exception to this is the train fleet, which is currently undergoing refurbishment that will extend its operating life for perhaps another 10 years, following which a new fleet will be required. New trains will deliver several important benefits including improved accessibility and performance, better environmental performance and reduced energy consumption.
“The strategy outlines future possibilities to extend the current Metro network into new areas, reflecting more closely the commuting patterns of the new Combined Authority area.
“Further development of the feasibility of these broad corridors will be required in order to develop strong business cases, based on changes in future land-use and the scale and scope of any new development.
“Additional stations could also be provided at locations on the existing network adjacent to new housing or employment development where demand would justify this. “
Washington and Sunderland West MP Sharon Hodgson, who has campaigned for the reopening of the Leamside line, welcomed the news the Metro could finally be extended.
She said: “Nexus have long supported my calls and the calls of my constituents to bring the Metro to Washington, and it’s very welcome to see those plans crystallising,” she said.
“There’s clearly a will amongst all concerned to make this happen; now we all need to work together, alongside local business groups, to find the way.”
Gary Hutchinson, chairman of the Sunderland Business Group and the North East chamber of Commerce’s Sunderland committee, said: “The plans, although at a preliminary stage,are very positive indeed for the city, its population and business.
“Transport and connectivity infrastructure play a key part in any successful economy. Linking Seaham, Washington and Doxford through the centre of Sunderland, which has many development projects ear-marked for the period ahead, would both increase connectivity and also help in attracting new developers and investment.
“We will offer any support as needed as this develops.”