Sunderland MP fears constituency will be overlooked by 'short-sighted' plans to reopen rail line
An MP fears her constituency may be overlooked by “short-sighted” plans to reopen a mothballed train line.
Full restoration of the Leamside Line – which closed to passenger traffic in 1964 during Dr Richard Beeching’s infamous cuts – would link Sunderland, Washington and Durham by rail with an extension to the Metro system also mooted.
Transport campaigners are urging the Government to pledge its support for the scheme in its upcoming Integrated Rail Plan.
Yet fears are growing that any official backing may only be for what is labelled the Leamside South option.
This “lower cost option” is believed to overlook Fence Houses for a station.
Houghton and Sunderland South MP Labour Bridget Phillipson has now written to rail minister Chris Heaton-Harris outlining her concerns.
She said: “It's not right that our area has had no access to rail services for decades, something that would be addressed by reopening the Leamside Line in full, with a station at Fence Houses.
“This wouldn't only benefit my constituents, it would be good for people and communities across the North East, with greater access to the work and leisure opportunities that will be so important to our recovery after this pandemic.
“I'm worried that the Government's proposed Leamside South option, which does not include a station at Fence Houses, simply won't bring the same long-term benefits for local jobs, livelihoods, and our environment as reopening the Leamside Line in full.
“That's why I've written to the rail minister to set out why proceeding with Leamside South would be a short-sighted move and risks limiting our potential in the years to come.”
The North East Joint Transport Committee, which represents the region’s local authorities, believes full restoration would reduce pressure on the main London-Scotland East Coast Main Line and make it easier to extend the high-speed HS2 rail project here.
A Department for Transport spokesperson said: “Proposals for restoring the Leamside Line are being considered as part of our Integrated Rail Plan, focused on how we can best deliver rail projects and better journeys for passengers across the North.
“We have received the letter and will respond in due course. But the rail minister looks forward to visiting the line in future.”