The prospect of better public transport in the region is always to be welcomed.
Nexus (remember Project Orpheus?), now under the guise of the North East Combined Authority (NECA), is good at producing plans for Metro expansion but less good at delivering.
The latest plans include, again, a Metro link to Washington and Doxford Park as well. Extensions to the Metro within the city of Sunderland would be particularly welcome. Further afield services to Ashington and Blyth and Peterlee are now being suggested as well as use of the (currently closed) Leamside line. Heavy rail is better over longer distances and this would, surely, be the best way of restoring or improving service in south-east Northumberland and along the Durham coast. A new railway station is already planned to serve the Peterlee area. Re-opening of the Leamside line would also be welcome - not just for Metro to use but also for speedier Tees-Tyne links; to ease congestion on the East Coast Main Line and as a diversionary route.
The Government is currently providing £400million for Metro re-invigoration, which includes the refurbishment of the current Metro fleet. It is important we get our money’s worth at this stage from this investment and suggesting a further £600million to include fleet replacement can certainly be described as ambitious.
A sound business case will need to be made for any further investment. I recall the former Director-General of Nexus, Bernard Garner, advising the former Transport Authority that it could not expect the government (taxpayer) alone to continue to provide such large sums. The Government has said it will consider the case for supporting NECA’s plans. What can we do to encourage investment from outside government to help make these plans a reality?
Coun Peter Wood
Leader, Conservative Group, Sunderland City Council