A planned £41million business park next to the Nissan plant could ‘easily’ be connected to the Metro network within 10 years.
South Tyneside Council (STC) leader Iain Malcolm has raised the prospect of the transport system being linked to the International Advanced Manufacturing Park (IAMP).
And his comments have been backed by Sunderland City Council leader Graeme Miller, who added Washington has already been waiting for the link for 30 years.
“Coun Malcolm is absolutely right,” he said, “the 10 year timetable for the Metro coming to Washington and the IAMP areas is a practical reality if we can get it right and Transport for the North and the North East Combined Authority can agree the transport priorities needed.
“There’s no reason why we cannot drive the Metro down into Washington, that would easily be done within 10 years if everything falls one step after the other.”
The IAMP project is a joint scheme between South Tyneside Council and Sunderland City Council.
Over the next 10 – 15 years the 150-hectare site north of the Nissan plant, off the A19, is expected to bring in about £400m of private sector investment and more than 7,000 jobs.
The prospect of extending the Metro to Washington from Pelaw by the old Leamside Line was raised in the Metro Strategy 2030 report.
This suggested new stations in north and south Washington and Washington Galleries shopping centre, although it also estimated total costs to be about £253m.
Coun Malcolm had been speaking at STC’s Overview and Scrutiny Co-ordinating and Call-In Committee yesterday (Tuesday, January 8).
As well as making it easier for workers to get to the site, Sunderland leader Coun Miller also said the Metro would be ‘cleaner, greener and faster’.
And it could also make the region more attractive to investors by boosting connectivity.
Extending the Metro to Washington could give Nissan a boost with access to a more ‘competitive workforce’, Coun Miller said.
The Japanese firm has previously warned about the impact Brexit could have on its business in the UK.
But Coun Miller said the infrastructure project could benefit the carmaker.
He said: “Nissan are here and they’re not going anywhere in the short term, regardless of what happens on March 30 and the Tory government’s mismanagement of the process.
“Nissan has to do what they can to keep themselves competitive.
“This would help them get a more competitive workforce because they would have more ways to get to work.
“But whatever Brexit brings we will deal with it.”
Builders began work on the IAMP’s first factory in August.
A government City Deal in 2015 attracted investment worth £41m for the site through the North East Local Enterprise Partnership’s (LEP) £270m Local Growth Fund for infrastructure, including new roads, bridges and other environmental enhancements.
A Nexus spokesman said: “We’re working on behalf of the region’s two combined authorities to make the case for expansion to Metro and win the funding that would be needed to make it happen.
“High quality transport links through the International Advanced Manufacturing Park, including Metro, is one the key routes we are focussing on.”
James Harrison , Local Democracy Reporting Service