Watered-down 'Leamside South' rail line reopening would be 'opposite of levelling up', say leaders

Watered-down plans to reopen a vital rail link would be ‘the opposite of levelling up’, North East leaders have warned.

Tuesday, 2nd February 2021, 4:14 pm
Updated Tuesday, 2nd February 2021, 4:19 pm
A stretch of the mothballed Leamside Railway Line.

Transport chiefs in the region have been fighting for years to see the former Leamside Line reopened to take pressure off the East Coast Mainline and pave the way for the extension of the Metro network into Washington and County Durham.

“The priority for us has to be improvement of the East Coast Mainline and the reopening of the Leamside Line,” said Martin Gannon, leader of Gateshead Council and transport lead for the North East Combined Authority (NECA).

“Very late in the day there was a late consideration of an alternative option, which was part-reopening the Leamside Line, called Leamside South.

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“That would be completely unacceptable to the region.”

Cllr Gannon was speaking at this afternoon’s meeting of NECA’s Leadership Board, which was held by videolink and broadcast via YouTube.

Plans to reopen the former Leamside Line are being pushed as part of Transport for the North’s (TfN) Northern Powerhouse Rail project, intended to link the North’s rail infrastructure to HS2.

The Leamside Line is being touted as a way of boosting capacity on the East Coast Mainline between London, Durham, Newcastle and Edinburgh.

But concerns have been raised over an alternative proposal, known as Leamside South.

A report for the combined authority labelled this option a ‘bypass around Durham’ and claimed it threatened other ambitions, including a rail link between Washington and Pelaw.

Cllr Gannon added: “In terms of the ‘leveling up’ agenda, maybe taking six minutes off the travel time between Manchester and Newcastle will satisfy the mandate given to TfN.

“But to give a bypass for some trains around Durham would have a significant impact on our connectivity for a significant part of the region, not just Durham, but also wider areas, such as South Tyneside and Sunderland, which connect from Durham.

“We would see that very much as the opposite of levelling up and our colleagues across the whole of the North have supported us on that.”

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