New £100-million plus Metro Flow scheme could pave way to bringing network to Washington
A massive £100millon-plus project to transform Metro services in South Tyneside could be the first step towards bringing the system to Washington and East Durham.
The £104million Metro Flow project will see three sections of single track dualled by refurbishing an existing freight line during a 12-week closure which starts on Monday, September 12 – the longest and biggest planned closure in the network’s 42 years.
In total, 800m of line between Pelaw and Hebburn, 1.4km between Hebburn and Jarrow and 600m between Jarrow and Bede will be upgraded.
The entire route between Pelaw and South Shields will be closed in both directions until December 4, with replacement buses running, while work is carried out.
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Metro operator Nexus invited the media to its trackside site in Wardley Lane, Gateshead, today, Thursday, September 8, to get an insight into what is involved.
Major Projects Director Cathy Massarella said the work would have a major impact not just on the South Tyneside line but the entire system, by increasing capacity across the network, which would then allow new routes to be opened up.
"At present, the system is maxed out in terms of what we can put on it. This project is an enabler for so many strategic opportunities for the Metro network for the next generation,” she said.
"It will allow us to look at our frequencies and also at expanding the network to new areas of the region.
"The Leamside/Wearside loop is one area of significant interest, whereby we could connect from Pelaw to South Hylton via Washington.”
A new vision of how the North East’s rail system can be upgraded over the next decade was unveiled earlier this year, in the form of the first North East Rail and Metro Strategy.
Adopted by the North East Joint Transport Committee, it includes a raft of ambitious proposals – including the reopening of the disused Leamside Line to bring trains to places such as Washington for the first time in decades – and multiple extensions to the Metro system.
The line, which runs between Pelaw and Tursdale in County Durham, was closed to passenger services in the 1960s and totally mothballed by British Rail in 1992.
Reopening it could see a railway station open in Washington for the first time in decades, as well as linking in areas such as Follingsby, Fence Houses, the Raintons and Belmont to the national rail network.
The proposal would also increase capacity on the busy East Coast Main Line route linking the region to London and Edinburgh, by providing an alternative path for slow-moving freight trains.
And reopening the line could pave the way for expansion of the Metro, creating a circular service linking South Tyneside, Washington and Sunderland via the new International Advanced Manufacturing Park being developed near Nissan.
The plan would use see a section of the line used to bring Metro trains from Pelaw through Follingsby to Washington, then over the Wear and past Penshaw to the current end-point at South Hylton.
Washington could then be directly connected to the existing South Shields line via a new bridge over the tracks at Pelaw, while a short section of track linking the Sunderland and South Tyneside lines close to Jarrow and East Boldon would eliminate the need to change trains.