'Washington feels like an island' - Minister agrees to consider case for bringing Metro to town after MP raises issue in Parliament
A Government Minister has agreed to consider the case for bringing the Metro to Washington after the issue was raised in Parliament by the town's MP.
Washington and Sunderland West MP told Parliament this week the area "felt like an island" and called for investment in transport connections, including an extension of the Metro system, in a question to transport minister Andrew Jones.
She asked: "What assessment he has made of the potential merits of extending the Tyne and Wear Metro to Washington?"
She added: "Residents of Washington often feel like the town is an island compared with neighbouring cities and towns. It contains 70,000 of my constituents, 70% of whom use their car to get to work.
"Does the Minister not agree that investment in transport infrastructure - such as the extension of the best light rail system in the North East to Washington - would be the perfect way to encourage people out of their cars, reduce congestion, improve air quality and reduce the nation’s carbon footprint? What’s not to love?"
The issue of bringing the Metro system or a train link to Washington has been raised countless times in recent decades, with ideas including reopening the mothballed Leamside line to connect up the new town, Houghton, and other communities in the area with Newcastle and Sunderland.
Mr Jones, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary from the Department for Transport, replied to Mrs Hodgson during the question session in the House of Commons.
Her question came after his department called for evidence from on how light rail and "other rapid transit solutions" could be better used in cities and towns.
Mr Jones said: "The department’s call for evidence, issued on 7 February, seeks views on how we can seize the opportunities to build on the success of light rail.
"I am grateful for the response that the honourable lady sent to the department highlighting the potential merits of extending the Metro system to Washington, and we will ensure that her comments are taken into full consideration."
He added: "As ever, the honourable lady has made a strong case for the original Washington. We are keen supporters of this local transport system. We are investing £317million in the Metro renewals and refurbishment programme and a further £337million in renewing the fleet, as the Secretary of State said a moment ago.
"I am aware that Nexus has identified a number of opportunities to expand the Metro network. It is up to Nexus to build a business case and to seek funding accordingly, but I support the honourable lady’s basic argument, which is that transport investment is a driver of economic growth and environmental improvement.
"That is why we are investing so much in our networks across the country."
The Department for Transport's consultation, which runs until May, is looking at views on how to better harness the opportunities for building on the popularity of light rail, and improving the country's manufacturing and engineering capacity in the area.
It is looking at if there is a need for other light rail and other rapid transit systems in the UK, what the possible environmental, economic and congestion benefits would be of introducing new systems, and if there are issues preventing light rail and other rapid transit solutions