Case for reopening Leamside Line goes to Parliament in fresh push to restore rail link
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Campaigners say new jobs and housing could be stimulated by reopening the 21-mile route linking Gateshead to County Durham via South Tyneside and Sunderland, while the Metro could be extended to Washington
In a debate secured by Washington and Sunderland West MP Sharon Hodgson, cross party MPs made the case for reopening the line to Rail Minister Wendy Morton MP.
Conservative MP for Sedgefield Paul Howell is also a key supporter of the plan to complement his successful bid to the Restoring Your Railways (RYR) Fund for Ferryhill station to be reopened with a passenger link to Teesside.
The North East Joint Transport Committee is moving forward plans to reopen the line including a recent announcement that work is to begin on a business case for extending the Tyne and Wear Metro, using the northern part of the Leamside Line, to Washington.
Future work will also include studies into passenger services through County Durham to Ferryhill station, and the use of the line for freight. All studies will be combined into a single comprehensive plan which maximises the benefits to the North East.
Funding needs to be secured for further phases, which MPs have directly asked the Minister for today.
Before the debate, Sharon Hodgson, Paul Howell and Managing Director of Transport North East Tobyn Hughes met with the Minister to discuss the next steps in securing funding.
“Investment in the Leamside Line would tick every box in the levelling up agenda, showing that the prosperity and connectivity of people in the North East matter, said Mrs Hodgson.
"This would go some way to addressing the disparity between the amount per head spent on transport funding in the North East compared to other areas of the country – it’s gone on for long enough.
“The Leamside Line is a vital connection for our region that would help to address capacity constraints on the East Coast Main Line and provide enhanced local connections to opportunities for employment and education. Extending the Tyne and Wear Metro to Washington is just one of the many benefits Leamside would bring to the North East and we are pleased to highlight once again today the unified position of both North East politicians, business leaders and indeed the wider community.”
Tobyn Hughes added: “Thanks to the support of our regional MPs we had a welcome discussion with the new Rail Minister today on the strategic importance of the Leamside Line.
"There are a number of active projects which support the line’s reopening, including the development of a business case to extend the r Metro to Washington and an overarching plan that brings together the benefits of the work that are ongoing.
"The Leamside Line remains one of our region’s main strategic priorities to improve transport and I hope Ministers will see the many benefits that delivery would bring.”
Commenting in the debate, Shadow Rail Minister Tan Dhesi MP said: “The scaling back of Northern Powerhouse Rail, coupled with the scrapping of HS2 eastern leg is a double blow for the North-East.
“The scheme would have sparked a rail revolution and created tens of thousands of jobs, connecting 13 million people in major towns and cities in our industrial heartlands.”