Ambitious plans which could see South Tyneside get a direct Metro link to Sunderland have been given the thumbs-up by councillors.
Passenger transport executive Nexus says it can bring the region’s disused railways back to life in order to improve the network and open up areas which are now being developed at minimum cost.
A report was approved by North East Combined Authority’s Transport North East committee at Sunderland Civic Centre last week and went before a meeting of the full authority at Northumberland County Hall, in Morpeth, yesterday.
Most parts of South Tyneside currently have no direct links to the south of the area by rail, but the South Shields and Sunderland Metro routes are within 3km of each other in the Tyne Dock and Brockley Whins area and linked by a single-track freight line, which the report says could be opened up to allow trains to run directly.
The system has a stretch of single track between Jarrow and Pelaw, most of which has a freight line running alongside it, connecting to the disused Jarrow Oil Terminal.
Nexus believes that it should be possible to convert the line to be part of the Metro system,creating a dual-track route.
The plans also include an outline business case for a new train fleet and new rolling stock to be introduced in the early 2020s.
The cost of a fleet to replicate the current timetable is estimated to be about £300million, with an upgrade to signalling to cost an extra £100million.
“Our industrial heritage has left behind it a network of disused railways that thread across the region,” says the report.
“Some are former passenger lines, although many are freight routes connecting mines and factories to ports. As new developments take place around them, some will once again become important transport arteries, helping to move people around the North East along unobstructed, uncongested route corridors.
“Nexus believes that existing and disused local rail corridors can be combined with the Metro network to create a single Metro and local rail network, at a lower cost than new-build railways. There are also a number of areas where the existing Metro network can be upgraded to create a more effective service.”
Other proposals in the scheme include using the former Hetton Colliery railway to connect Sunderland City Centre to Doxford and extending an existing route from South Hylton towards Penshaw and then connecting it to with the Leamside line.