Leaders take the first step towards bringing Metro to Washington
The North East Joint Transport Committee is set to discuss development of a new Strategic Outline Business Case (SOBC) for the South of Tyne and Wearside Loop which could take the Tyne and Wear Metro to Washington in a major boost for regional connectivity.
Development of the new SOBC follows the early engineering feasibility and demand forecasting work which is just finalising its conclusions.
If approved by the committee at its meeting on 18 January, the SOBC will be made possible thanks to £70,000 in funding from the North East Local Enterprise Partnership and £30,000 from Transport North East’s own resources.
This development is an important step towards bringing a long talked-about Metro connection to Washington, the fourth largest town in the UK without direct access to a rail link, using a partly reopened Leamside Line. Metro would eventually link Washington directly with Sunderland via South Hylton – currently the southerly terminus of Metro – and with South Tyneside. It would provide a huge boost to connectivity across the region, opening up additional opportunities to jobs, education and training.
Cllr Martin Gannon, Chair of the North East Joint Transport Committee, said: “The development of the business case for the South of Tyne and Wearside Loop is great news for regional connectivity and goes to show how central the Leamside Line is to our regional transport ambitions.
“We have heard time and time again how much people want to extend Metro and bring it to Washington in particular, so I’m thrilled we are taking this important step forward. This project is a key ambition within the North East Transport Plan and I’m sure will be welcomed by many including residents of Washington and the local business community. Better connectivity is great news for everyone the North East.”
The South of Tyne and Wearside Loop would make use of the North end of the disused Leamside Line to bring Metro through Follingsby to Washington, over the River Wear and then link up with another disused track bed to South Hylton. Later phases of the extension would also have a direct route from Follingsby to Hebburn, using a bridge over the existing rail line in the Pelaw area, allowing South Tyneside to be joined to the new service.
Cllr Graeme Miller, Leader of Sunderland Council, said: “Alongside residents and businesses, and as a Washington councillor and leader of the City Council, I am very aware of how our city needs a better public transport deal.
“Expanding and investing in our rail and Metro network helps us create a more dynamic, healthier and vibrant city and region that’s fit for the 21st century.
“Working together and building this business case for the Leamside line is very much part of how better public transport brings benefits.
“In addition to bringing Metro to Washington, if the line is reopened in full it could offer Sunderland faster links to London, Leeds and Manchester via connections with the East Coast Main Line at Tursdale.
“Our regional spending on public transport is about a third of what it is London, investing in Leamside is a key factor in how we change this.”
Following the publication of the Government’s disappointing Integrated Rail Plan (IRP) last year, which said that work to reopen the Leamside Line “would be best considered as part of any future city region settlement”, the Joint Transport Committee has been considering its next steps. Work to co-ordinate various studies into the use of the Leamside Line has continued, and they will be assimilated into a single coherent plan which maximises the benefits to the North East, known as an “Umbrella Strategic Outline Business Case”. This work is nearing completion and will feature in a report to the Joint Transport Committee later this year.