How reopening the Leamside Line could help get rid of ‘county’ Tyne and Wear

The latest push to reopen the old Leamside railway line has united people of various political affinities.

By Tony Gillan
Sunday, 21st February 2021, 6:00 am

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The line could create rail travel from places currently bereft of trains, including Washington, Penshaw, Fence Houses and swathes of County Durham.

It would see the glorious Victoria Viaduct back in use, while Washington and Durham might finally have access to the Metro. However, so often does the suggestion arise, people will understandably only believe it when they see it.

The idea has been mooted for decades (actually the line was last used in 1991). The biggest obstacle is hard cash. But another issue, more trifling yet no less irritating for that, concerns the Metro.

The Victoria Viaduct should be a great emblem of County Durham.

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It’s named the Tyne and Wear Metro after the “county” it serves. However, the only objection to extending the service to County Durham, other than financial, is not only pedantic, it’s plain wrong.

The metropolitan county has not meaningfully existed since the Tyne and Wear County Council was humanely killed in 1986 after just 12 years. The name is still sometimes used, usually erroneously.

Sunderland, Jarrow, Shields and the rest are effectively not now in any county; served by unitary authorities rather than a county council.

Since 1974 the public have wanted to see towns and cities returned to the counties they have truly belonged for over a millennium; and forget that the last 47 years ever happened.

Sunderland, South Tyneside and Gateshead belong to County Durham. Restoration could be achieved without being answerable to Durham County Council – as Darlington has proved.

The nearest to approval of the status quo we ever hear is apathy. Yet the political will seems absent. Strange, as returning places to their rightful counties and identities, at minimal expense, seems an easy way to garner public approval; and politicians love that.

Hopefully the Leamside Line debate will be used as a vehicle to highlight this secondary issue.

As the city of Durham, containing the North East’s greatest landmarks, sits slap bang on the Wear, the Tyne and Wear Metro could reasonably keep its name, as long as we are referring to a geographical area, rather than a fake and universally disliked county.

But personally I would like to see "Tyne and Wear” dispelled from everywhere ... forever.

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Victoria Viaduct: One of Wearside's most magnificent and lesser-known landmarks

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