Sunderland’s tired old railway station is in urgent need of a revamp to transform it into a fitting gateway for our resurgent city – which is why I have launched a campaign for action.
Sunderland has a bright economic and cultural future, yet our station remains firmly rooted in the past – without even a toilet.
We need, and deserve, a station which is fit for purpose.
Regeneration plans have been in the pipeline for years and, as Sunderland bids for City of Culture status, it is time for Network Rail (NR) to do more to make this revamp a reality.
I have already written to the chief executive of NR, asking for an urgent meeting to discuss the future of our station, and I’m hoping that this can be arranged very soon.
So many exciting things are happening in Sunderland. For example, some £1.3billion is to be invested into the local economy in the coming years, potentially creating 20,000 jobs.
The cultural outlook is equally promising; Sunderland has not only been shortlisted for City of Culture 2021, but we will also welcome the world-famous Tall Ships Races next year.
By contrast, our station looks tired and offers a poor welcome to Sunderland. It is in urgent need of regeneration if we are to maximise both investment and the benefits of investment.
The grandeur of the original Victorian station, with its arched roof and gothic clock tower, is obviously long gone, but the building that replaced it in the mid-1960s is now very dated.
It is my understanding that a £13.55million design has been agreed by Nexus, NR and Sunderland Council for some time – with the council and Nexus providing £7.25million.
This leaves a funding gap of £6.1million and, while acknowledging the resources NR has already committed to the joint working group, it simply isn’t enough.
I would suggest that NR must make a greater financial commitment to the redevelopment of the station and I am calling for urgent talks to discuss the way forward.