The Transport Secretary has been urged to provide the £20mn initial funding needed to eventually reopen at least seven North East rail stations and the Leamside Line in County Durham.
North East Mayor Labour candidate Kim McGuinness and Gateshead Council leader Martin Gannon have written to Transport Secretary Mark Harper urging him to fund the business case work needed to reopen key railway routes in the North East.
They are campaigning for both the Metro Washington extension and the full Leamside Line to be reopened to create an extensive new network of local stations.
The outline business case for the Washington Metro loop still needs £8.5mn of work from an expected £9.5mn total, with a similar amount at least expected to be needed to fund the initial stages of work preparing the case for the Leamside Line South.
Potential new stations
The two railway projects together would link up passengers in Durham through to Wearside, Tyneside and Northumberland. Potential new stations could include Ferryhill, Follingsby, Washington South, North of Washington, Fencehouses and Penshaw.
The Transport Secretary has been told there is an urgent need to at least prepare the early engineering reports and economic plans now, rather than further delay the project.
Labour candidate Kim McGuinness said: “We have ambitious plans to reopen railways in the North East, creating jobs and getting people out of cars and onto a joined-up public transport network.
“We all saw the Prime Minister announce and then U-turn on plans to reopen the Leamside Line last month, this is a chance to make up for that snub.
“The Transport Secretary should agree to fund the Outline Business Case – the early work before a detailed project can happen – now in order to ensure the region can get moving once the funds are found for these key infrastructure projects.
“The government did this for the reopened railway line in South East Northumberland, we need that same commitment to Durham, Wearside, and Gateshead.”
The Northumberland line, linking Newcastle, Ashington and Blyth, is ready to reopen after Government funded both the detailed business case and early site work with a £34m grant and the later work.
North East Joint Transport Committee
Mr Gannon, chair of the North East Joint Transport Committee, said: “We continue to stress with ministers the need for investment in both the Leamside Line and the East Coast Main Line in our region – unlocking the full potential of rail across the North East and beyond.
“The North East continues to suffer from a major bottleneck on the East Coast Main
Line which stifles our economic growth. Transport funding in our region is miniscule
compared with the significant levels of investment in rail in the south, and we
continue to make the case for national funding to help us deliver on our economic goals.”