MPs take the case for re-opening the Leamside Line to Parliament
Today a group of cross-party MPs has made the case for re-opening the Leamside Line to Parliament.
The rail route – a 21 mile stretch from Gateshead, through South Tyneside, Sunderland and County Durham but closed since 1992 – runs through numerous areas where new jobs and housing could be stimulated by new stations, as well as taking hundreds of cars each day off some the region’s main commuter roads – improving city centre air quality and decarbonising transport. It would return passenger rail to a number of left-behind areas which have high car dependency but low car ownership, opening up access to employment, education and leisure.
In a debate secured by Sharon Hodgson, Labour MP for Washington and Sunderland West, regarding the potential merits for re-opening the Leamside Line, North East MPs made the case to the Rail Minister, Wendy Morton MP.
Paul Howell, Conservative MP for Sedgefield, is also a key supporter of the Leamside Line’s reopening to complement his successful bid to the Restoring Your Railways (RYR) Fund for Ferryhill station to be reopened with a passenger link to Teesside.
The North East Joint Transport Committee is moving forward plans to reopen the line including a recent announcement that work is to begin on a business case for extending the Tyne and Wear Metro, using the northern part of the Leamside Line, to Washington. Future work will also include studies into passenger services through County Durham to Ferryhill station, and the use of the line for freight. All of the studies will shortly be combined into a single comprehensive plan which maximises the benefits to the North East.
Funding needs to be secured for further phases, which MPs have directly asked the Minister for today.
Before the debate, Sharon Hodgson MP, Paul Howell MP and Managing Director of Transport North East Tobyn Hughes met with the Rail Minister to discuss the next steps in securing funding for future phases of creating the strategic business case.
The cross-party nature of the campaign to Government has been matched by commitments to the project from the North East Joint Transport Committee, Northern Powerhouse Partnership, North East England Chamber of Commerce, North East Local Enterprise Partnership and Local Authority leaders in the North East.
The North East is sending a unified message: re-open the Leamside Line.
Sharon Hodgson MP said: “Investment in the Leamside Line would tick every box in the levelling up agenda, showing that the prosperity and connectivity of people in the North East matter. This would go some way to addressing the disparity between the amount per head spent on transport funding in the North East compared to other areas of the country – it’s gone on for long enough.
“The Leamside Line is a vital connection for our region that would help to address capacity constraints on the East Coast Main Line and provide enhanced local connections to opportunities for employment and education. Extending the Tyne and Wear Metro to Washington is just one of the many benefits Leamside would bring to the North East and we are pleased to highlight once again today the unified position of both North East politicians, business leaders and indeed the wider community.”
Paul Howell MP said: “I want to see commitment to invest in the full reopening of the Leamside Line which would greatly benefit communities such as Ferryhill.
“Better access to jobs and education will change the lives of local people as well as take many more people out of their cars and onto more sustainable methods of public transport. I’m pleased to be working together with Sharon Hodgson MP to make our continued case for the line’s reopening to ministers today.”
Tobyn Hughes, Managing Director of Transport North East, said: “Thanks to the support of our regional MPs we had a welcome discussion with the new Rail Minister today on the strategic importance of the Leamside Line. Locally through the North East Joint Transport Committee there are a number of active projects which support the line’s reopening, including the development of a new business case to extend the Tyne and Wear Metro to Washington and an overarching plan that brings together the benefits of the numerous pieces of work that are ongoing. The Leamside Line remains one of our region’s main strategic priorities to improve transport and I hope that Ministers will see the many benefits that scheme delivery would bring to local people.”