A group of cross-party MPs representing the North East moved the reopening of the Leamside line one step closer to a reality when they brought the debate on the ambitious proposals to Parliament this week (February 8).
Local communities along the route have been championing for the resurrecting of the historic 21-mile rail link, which runs from Gateshead, through South Tyneside, Sunderland and County Durham.
The line was closed in 1992.
In order to help reopen the mothballed line, Labour MP for Washington and Sunderland West, Sharon Hodgson, secured a meeting to make the case to the new Rail Minister, Wendy Morton MP.
Joined by Conservative MP for Sedgefield, Paul Howell, a key campaigner for the reopening of the Leamside line, the North East MPs want the route re-established to help take hundreds of cars off the region’s main commuter roads each day, as well as providing a rail line running through several areas where new jobs and housing could produce new stations in the future.
Ms Hodgson and Mr Howell were also joined by Kevan Jones (North Durham), Richard Holden (North West Durham), Mary Foy (City of Durham) and Peter Gibson (Darlington) in giving his insight into the topic of Leamside.
The improvements are also seen as able to play a role in levelling up several ‘left-behind areas’, such as Ferryhill in County Durham, which has a high car dependency but low car ownership.
These discussions come alongside the efforts of the North East Joint Transport Committee to push forward with plans for the reopening of the line, including the recent news that it will begin working on a business case for extending the Tyne and Wear Metro, using the northern part of the Leamside line, to Washington.
Future work is also to include studies into passenger services through County Durham to Ferryhill station, and the use of the line for freight.
It is estimated the reopening of the Leamside line would cost around £600m; with the North East MPs championing it pointing the investment being made by into major rail projects like HS2.
Ms Hodgson 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.”
Mr Hughes added: “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.”