Protest march aims to save Sunderland city centre fire station

RALLYING CRY: Russ King, secretary of the Tyne and Wear branch of the FBU.
RALLYING CRY: Russ King, secretary of the Tyne and Wear branch of the FBU.
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A RALLY to call for fire service chiefs to rethink plans to shut down Sunderland’s city centre station will take place next month.

The march is to be staged ahead of a meeting which will see Tyne and Wear Fire Authority made a decision on whether to close Sunderland Central Station, in Railway Row, as it looks to save cash following £8.8million of Government cuts. The station, alongside those in Wallsend and Gosforth, has been earmarked for closure in June 2017 in the final phase of money saving plans as a last resort, with efforts being made to try and find the funds up to that date.

The authority will meet on Monday, February 16, with the budget for 2015/16 based on the latest financial settlement by the Government expected to be on the agenda.

The rally will be held on Saturday, February 7, with the aim of showing the strength of feeling against the closure.

Russ King, secretary of the Tyne and Wear branch of the Firefighters’ Brigade Union, said: “This is the crunch time when they say whether it’s a yea or nay for the closure.

“The stations are all in built up areas, especially Sunderland’s, which is right in the city centre. Closure could be a danger to firefighters and to members of the public.

“People are very protective of their area and they understand that to be safe, they need a functioning fire service.

“The support we have been given has been phenomenal.”

The march will start from Sunderland Central station at 11am and head to the Market Square, with speakers to include supporters Sunderland Central MP Julie Elliott, Sunderland City Council leader Paul Watson and TUC regional secretary Beth Farhat from noon.

The Echo, along with Ms Elliott, is running a petition calling for the authority to rethink the plan, which would see crews from Fulwell and Farringdon cover Central’s patch following any closure.

It can be signed online HERE.

Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service, has said it is confident it will reach serious fires within a six-minute period after the closure.

Twitter: @EchoEastDurham