New Chancellor Rishi Sunak urged to finance Sunderland to Washington rail extension in first Budget
New Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak has been urged to back growing calls for the restoration of a mothballed railway line with hard cash.
He has been challenged to “live up to the promises they made during the election” by financing the reopening of the Leamside line through Sunderland and Washington in next month’s Budget.
The call comes only weeks after Conservative government transport minister Chris Heaton-Harris stated in Parliament that he hoped the proposals “will come to fruition”.
The Leamside line, which closed in 1964 as part of the infamous Beeching Plan, would potentially link Sunderland and Washington to Durham via separate spurs at Penshaw.
Now Councillor Martin Gannon, chair of the North East Joint Transport Committee, has written to Mr Sunak for his support for the restoration as part of a wider upgrade of the East Coast Main Line.
Coun Gannon said: “There is much to do in order to grow our region’s productivity, creating inclusive economic growth while tackling the climate change emergency and pollution in our towns and cities.
“We would like to work with you to level up investment in our region’s transport so that it can play its full role in delivering those objectives.”
His plea for the Government’s support on March 11 is backed by Washington and Sunderland West Labour MP Sharon Hodgson, who said: “I fully support calls by the North East Joint Transport Committee for the new Chancellor to commit to upgrading the East Coast Main Line when putting together the upcoming Budget.
“As the committee outlined, this should include plans to reinstate the Leamside Line, something I have been pushing for since I was first elected as a Member of Parliament in 2005.
‘”For far too long, the Conservatives have ignored the transport needs in our region, it’s time for them to live up to the promises they made during the election and deliver for the many thousands of people who rely on public transport.”
Defeated Houghton and Sunderland South Tory Christopher Howarth earlier this month hoped a non-political group could be formed to access funding from the Goverment’s new £500m pot to reverse Beeching cuts.