The North East says: “We need the Leamside Line re-opened.”

Cross-party MPs, local politicians and business leaders came together today (Friday 4 February) at multiple locations along the Leamside Line to make the case for its reopening.

Reopening the disused line is a key priority for the region because of the economic, social, and environmental benefits it would bring. 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.

The line’s reopening is strongly supported by the region’s political and business leaders.

Paul Howell MP for Sedgefield, Sharon Hodgson MP for Washington and Sunderland West, and Liz Twist MP for Blaydon met with Cllr Martin Gannon, Chair of the North East Joint Transport and Leader of Gateshead Council alongside other supporters from the North East Chamber of Commerce, North East Local Enterprise Partnership, Transport for the North, Northern Powerhouse Partnership, Nexus and Transport North East, at three strategic points on the line – Follingsby, Washington and Ferryhill.

The visit enabled the group to get a closer look at what scheme delivery in the future would look like.

This follows a recent announcement that work is to begin on a business for extending the Tyne and Wear Metro, using the Leamside Line, to Washington. This move by the Joint Transport Committee was warmly welcomed by people in Sunderland and the wider region.

Transport North East, Leamside Line

Future work will also include studies into passenger services through County Durham to a reopened 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. This work will feature in a report to the Joint Transport Committee later this year.

Cllr Martin Gannon, Chair of the North East Joint Transport Committee, said: “The Leamside Line is one of our top priorities and its reopening would change the socio-economic future of the North East. We need the Leamside Line reopened and our political and business communities are absolutely united on this. I’m delighted see such strong support today from some of the line’s most vocal supporters.

“Places like Follingsby, Washington and Ferryhill are crying out for direct rail connectivity, and we must continue to call for investment in this critical piece of railway infrastructure. Leamside has the potential to be game-changing – let’s make it a reality for the people of the North East.”

Sharon Hodgson MP, an avid supporter of the Leamside Line, continues to make the case for reopening and presented an online petition to Government last year on the issue. Mrs Hodgson has successfully secured a debate in Parliament on the ‘Potential merits of reopening the Leamside Line’ which has been scheduled for Tuesday 8 February 2022 at 2.30pm in Westminster Hall.

Mrs Hodgson, said: “Washington is the fourth largest town in the UK without a direct rail link and it’s gone on for long enough. There is overwhelming support across business, political and local communities to get things moving and I want to see this happen. I look forward to putting forward our region’s strong strategic case in the Westminster Hall debate next week.”

Paul Howell MP, is a long-time supporter of the line and recently wrote to the new Rail Minister (with Sharon Hodgson MP) to outline reasons for its reopening.

Leamside Line proposed route
Leamside map – please note all station locations are indicative and yet to be confirmed

Mr Howell, said: “The Leamside Line would be truly transformational for the North East and we continue to make the case to reopen the line, connecting communities such as Ferryhill to the Local and National rail network. Leamside will solve the capacity constraints we face on the East Coast Main Line (ECML) and I will continue to push for it to be developed.”

Lesley Moody, OBE, President, North East England Chamber of Commerce said: “Re-opening the Leamside Line would improve rail journeys for 1,000s of passengers each day and create more much-needed capacity to move both passengers and goods by rail across the North East. It’s essential to see investment in our rail connections as this infrastructure has such a key part to play if we are to be levelled up in any meaningful sense.”

Lucy Winskell OBE, Chair of the North East Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), said: “We strongly support the ambition to reopen the Leamside Line. The reintroduction of passenger services along this line would not only open up vital transport links for communities in the surrounding areas and give increased access to employment and leisure opportunities, it is also part of a wider solution to speed up journey times on the East Coast Main Line, linking the North East to the rest of the UK rail network. It could also lead to a significant reduction in car trips on the surrounding highway network which would have positive environmental benefits.”

Henri Murison, Director of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership, said: “Reopening the Leamside Line is not just critical for connectivity in the region, it’s vital for the whole Northern Powerhouse. It could provide much-needed freight capacity, while playing a key role in Northern Powerhouse Rail by opening up Newcastle, Gateshead and Northumberland to those travelling from Liverpool and Manchester for business or leisure.

“The huge potential benefits of the newly reopened Ferryhill Station – which we and Paul Howell MP have long campaigned – will be significantly undermined if it only connects people to Middlesbrough, when the potential is to open up Wearside and Tyneside as well.”

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