Boris Johnson slammed over failure to reopen Leamside rail line
Shadow transport secretary Jim McMahon accused the Prime Minister Boris Johnson and the Government of a “betrayal of trust” after ministers set out their long-awaited revised plans for Northern England and the Midlands.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said the £96billion Integrated Rail Plan would slash journey times across the region with 110 miles of new high-speed line.
But today’s announcement confirmed that the planned high-speed rail link between Birmingham and Leeds has been scrapped and that calls to reopen the Leamside Line, which was closed in 1991, have gone unheeded.
Campaigners had argued that a reopened line could see services from Pelaw down to Ferryhill in County Durham, with trains running to Washington, Penshaw, Fence Houses and Durham City as well as paving the way for the Metro to be extended to Washington.
The campaign to re-open the line has attracted cross-party support at local and national level, as shown by a joint letter to the Rail Minister just two weeks ago.
Washington and Sunderland West MP Sharon Hodgson, who has been a prominent cheerleader for the plans, accused the Government of breaking its promises to ‘level up’ the regions.
“The communities along the Leamside line should be at the heart of the levelling up agenda - and transport accessibility is central to improving the lives of constituents in these areas,” she said.
"If transport accessibility is not resolved then local economic inequalities will continue to grow. Where we want to see commitment to being levelled up, I see nothing but our communities being left behind.”
Her Houghton and Sunderland South colleague Bridget Phillipson said the Government plans contained ‘watered down, half-baked plans offering the bare minimum to communities across the North’.
"The Leamside line is a project that commands wide support alongside a strong economic case for re-opening. The fact we continue to be overlooked shows this Government’s lack of ambition.
"I know how bitterly disappointed local people and local businesses will be.”
Jarrow MP Kate Osborne said reopening the line would have been ‘transformative for our communities here in South Tyneside, Gateshead and further afield’.
"The North East has been starved of investment in rail infrastructure for many years and this is just another kick in the teeth from the Tories down in Westminster,” she added.
North East England Chamber of Commerce chief executive John McCabe described today’s announcement as ‘a huge missed opportunity for our region’.
“The Government’s integrated rail plan fails to deliver on the levelling up agenda and give much-need commitment to transformational projects for the North,” he said.
“Rail connections are key for the North East’s businesses helping to encourage more trade between northern cities, as well as giving people a wider choice of employment opportunities, encouraging people to stay and work in the region.
“The Government had previously committed to Northern Powerhouse Rail and set up bodies like Transport for the North to advise on rail connectivity. Failing to listen to them and Northern leaders on the need to invest demonstrates that there is a lag between rhetoric and action on levelling up."