New bid to extend Sunderland Metro services to Washington by reopening mothballed rail line
Transport campaigners are launching a new bid to persuade the Government into backing the reopening of a mothballed train line.
They believe restoring the Leamside Line – potentially linking Sunderland, Washington and Durham by rail and extending the Metro network – “could trigger a wave of economic benefits across the North East” and ease pressure on the nearby London-Scotland East Coast Main Line.
The North East Joint Transport Committee wants the Government to pledge to restore the route, which closed to passenger journeys in 1964 as part of Dr Richard Beeching’s infamous cuts, in its upcoming Integrated Rail Plan.
Councillor Martin Gannon, the chair of the committee, which is made up of local authority members from the region, called the restoration of the line “one of our top priorities” and said the idea had the backing of both MPs and businesses in the area.
He added: “We all know that as it stands, the East Coast Main Line in our region is slow, unreliable and doesn’t offer the capacity needed to grow our region’s economy, now or in the future.
"The line creates a bottleneck which significantly limits the number of trains able to operate and reduces the speed and reliability of those that do.
"We know the solution: Reopen the Leamside Line to freight trains, freeing up the East Coast Main Line for express passenger trains.
“A reopened Leamside Line could trigger a wave of economic benefits across the North East, not just from an improved East Coast Main Line but also by enabling the introduction of local passenger services and extending the Metro.
“Investment is long overdue on this critical connection for the North East and it is therefore vital that the Government acts on this now by making sure that the Integrated Rail Plan supports a major upgrade to the East Coast Main Line in our region, including the reopening of the Leamside Line in full.”
The Government last year announced a £500m pot to help reopen axed Beeching rail lines.
Transport minister Chris Heaton-Harris also said he was hopeful the Leamside plans “will come to fruition”.