North East Business Leaders Urge Prime Minister to Fund the Leamside Line

Businesses from across the North East have today (Monday 20 March) written to the Prime Minister calling on the UK Government to commit to funding the re-opening of the Leamside Line, starting with a new Metro connection from Pelaw to South Hylton via Washington, known as the “Washington Metro Loop”.

Led by the Northern Powerhouse Partnership, North East of England Chamber of Commerce, regional CBI, North East LEP and the Federation of Small Businesses, the letter asks the Prime Minster to fund the Line and in particular the re-development of a new Metro extension, the “Washington Metro Loop”.

Signatories to the letter also include Newcastle International Airport, NewcastleGateshead Initiative, Newcastle United Foundation and the Foundation of Light, as well as Port of Tyne, Womble Bond Dickinson LLP, Esh Construction, Vantec Europe Limited and Sunderland BID.

The proposed “Washington Metro Loop” forms part of a wider project to re-open the Leamside Line in full, with work already underway with the development of the new Ferryhill station in County Durham. The Business Case, which is part funded by the North East Local Enterprise Partnership (NELEP) and Transport North East, has been created and earlier this year a copy was submitted to Huw Merriman Minister for Rail for comment. The Business case builds on previous engineering feasibility and demand forecasting work undertaken as part of the wider suite of corridor studies funded through the Joint Transport Committee.

It is predicted that the new Metro line will:

  • generate over £90m per year in economic benefits to the region. Each Metro taken in the region generates £11.80 for the economy
  • create nearly 8m additional passenger journeys a year
  • reduce carbon emissions by nearly 87,000 tonnes a year by replacing nearly 1.7m car journeys per year – the equivalent of over half a million trees each year
  • give Washington – the fourth largest town without access to a rail service – new connections to Newcastle, Sunderland and Newcastle International Airport

The Business Case forecasts that the new Washington Metro Loop will cost £745m to deliver, which includes additional new Metro trains to support extra services on the line. The cost equates to under 1% of the overall Government commitment to the Integrated Rail Plan, which has a total cost of commitment of £96 billion across the UK.

Henri Murison, Chief Executive of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership said “The re-opening of the Leamside Line, and in particular the commitment to the Washington Metro Loop, is a critical piece of infrastructure for the North East. Businesses across the region need, and want, investment into transport systems; not only to open up the opportunities for trade across the region but to vastly improve commuting links for residents and workers.

“For too long the North East has been left behind and we urge the Prime Minister to re-evaluate his Government’s commitment to transport infrastructure spend and invest further in the people of the North East.”

The letter follows announcement earlier this month by Shadow Secretary of State for Transport, Louise Haigh, that Labour will fund the reinstatement of the Line if the party win the next election.

North East of England Chamber of Commerce Chief Executive John McCabe said “The proposed devolution deal for the North East includes a commitment from the Government to work with the region to push forward plans for the Leamside Line. This is a positive development for this strategically vital infrastructure project; however, it does not secure the funding needed to deliver the Leamside Line in full. 

“We will continue to urge the Government to press on and deliver the East Coast Main Line (ECML) upgrades outlined in the Integrated Rail Plan (IRP) between Northallerton and Newcastle – a move that will signal a positive step towards the realisation of some of the benefits of Northern Powerhouse Rail for the region. 

“However, to reap the full benefits, we need to facilitate the full re-opening of the Leamside Line which would improve reliability, resilience and further capacity uplift on the ECML, as well as provide extra capacity for freight growth in the North East, and provide enhanced regional rail connectivity between the North East and Tees Valley.”

Commenting on the letter, Chair of the North East Joint Transport Committee and Leader of Gateshead Council, Cllr Martin Gannon said “Business support for the campaign to re-open the Leamside Line is vital, and we were really pleased that business organisations, as well as employers of all sizes from across the region have joined us in our fight to re-open the Leamside Line. The campaign is backed by MPs from across the North East as well as Councils and elected representatives at all levels. Together with the business voice we are making a strong statement to the Prime Minister to re-look at his Government’s spend on critical infrastructure in the North East.” 

To find out more visit: www.transportnortheast.gov.uk/strategic-rail/leamside-line/

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