Upgrading East Coast Main Line key to achieving North East’s long-term economic plans

A body set up to assess the North’s rail needs has been told the key to achieving the North East’s long-term economic plans lies in the upgrading of the East Coast Main Line. 

The North East Joint Transport Committee has told the National Infrastructure Committee looking into the rail needs of the North and Midlands that investing in the line which runs through the region, as well as reopening the Leamside Line from Gateshead to Durham would provide significant improvements to local residents and businesses. 

Councillor Martin Gannon, Leader of Gateshead Council and Chair of the North East Joint Transport Committee, said: “Now that the Government has confirmed that High Speed 2 will go ahead, we are eager to emphasise the vital investment that is needed to the East Coast Main Line (ECML) between 2024 and 2034 to make sure that the North East can fully benefit from the introduction of high-speed rail to the North. I am sure that the National Infrastructure Commission will agree that this upgrade is vital not only for our region but for the country as a whole. 

“The impact of Coronavirus on the North East economy has been hard and fast. Our rail network will need to play as a key enabler to economic growth and recovery. The railway’s importance to the economic and social life of our region cannot be understated. We therefore see the upgrading of the ECML between York and Newcastle, if configured correctly, can help us to achieve the North East’s long-term economic growth plans.  

“A significant upgrade to the York to Newcastle ECML corridor is an essential piece of the jigsaw and must be included as part of the Integrated Rail Plan.” 

In its submission to the National Infrastructure Commission, the Joint Transport Committee has also highlighted the region’s ambitious plans to expand the Tyne and Wear Metro and North East local rail network as well as its desire to better integrate public transport through local rail devolution. 

Cllr Gannon said: “Taking the Leamside Line as an example, as well as solving the ECML freight and passenger capacity constraints, reopening the line has enormous opportunity to integrate our local railways and Tyne and Wear Metro system and provide significant improvements in connectivity for our residents and businesses. A failure to develop it will result in continued pressures on the ECML, poor access to jobs and economic under-activity.” 

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