SUNDERLAND’S port is getting back on track.
Rail lines that were last used almost 20 years ago are being brought back into life to connect the heart of the port to the rail network.
Almost half a mile of rail line will be returned to use in the first quarter of next year and the port still has two of its own locomotives, which were mothballed after use of the line stopped.
Port director Matthew Hunt said: “In the last few years, we have added two new cranes – one a heavy lift crane – and a ro-ro ramp to our facilities, all things that have provided a boost to the port’s handling capabilities.
“Teaming that with improved connections will make a huge difference to the port, and we are delighted that work is under way to reconnect the rail connections.”
The port is working with operator Network Rail to bring the lines back into use. Network Rail area director Mark Tarry said: “We are delighted to assist the port in putting its rail lines back into use.
“Network Rail is committed to supporting the local economy and to promoting rail freight – both aims that will be supported by reconnecting lines into and out of the port.
“We expect the rail lines will be fully operational and in use from 2015.
“We would like to stress to the public that the area of railway land adjacent to the port is not safe to use for walking or recreational use.”
City council leader Coun Paul Watson is chairman of the port board and he welcomed the new development.
As well as the restored rail connection, the port would benefit from the new Wear crossing and strategic transport corridor to link the city centre to the A19.
He said: “ To have a port with such strong natural assets – and boasting almost unrivalled closeness to open sea – is a real strength for Sunderland, and we need to do everything we can to maximise the economic impact it is able to have. The addition of rail connectivity, coupled with the arrival of a new bridge, will allow the port to really take its operations to the next level.
“It’s a great step forward.”