The North East Joint Transport Committee will discuss development of a £100,000 Strategic Outline Business Case (SOBC) for the proposed South of Tyne and Wearside Loop scheme.
If approved by the committee on Tuesday, January 18, the SOBC will be drawn up with £70,000 funding from the North East Local Enterprise Partnership and £30,000 from Transport North East’s resources.
The move is an important step towards reopening the disused Leamside Line to bring the Metro to Washington - the fourth largest town in the UK without direct access to a rail route – and create a new link to South Tyneside,
Sunderland City Council leader Coun Graeme Miller outlined the reason for extending the tram system to the New Town: “Alongside residents and businesses, and as a Washington councillor and leader of the city council, I am very aware of how our city needs a better public transport deal.
“Expanding and investing in our rail and Metro network helps us create a more dynamic, healthier and vibrant city and region that’s fit for the 21st century.
“Working together and building this business case for the Leamside line is very much part of how better public transport brings benefits.
“In addition to bringing Metro to Washington, if the line is reopened in full it could offer Sunderland faster links to London, Leeds and Manchester via connections with the East Coast Main Line at Tursdale.
“Our regional spending on public transport is about a third of what it is London, investing in Leamside is a key factor in how we change this.”
The South of Tyne and Wearside Loop would make use of the North end of the disused Leamside Line to bring the Metro through Follingsby to Washington, over the River Wear by way of the Victoria Viaduct and then link up with another disused track bed to South Hylton.
Later phases would also have a direct route from Follingsby to Hebburn, using a bridge over the existing rail line in the Pelaw area, allowing South Tyneside to be joined to the new service.
Work to co-ordinate various studies into the use of the Leamside Line has continued, and they will be gathered into a single coherent plan known as an “Umbrella Strategic Outline Business Case”.
This work is nearing completion and will feature in a report to the Joint Transport Committee later this year.
Coun Martin Gannon, Chair of the North East Joint Transport Committee, said: “The development of the business case for the South of Tyne and Wearside Loop is great news for regional connectivity and goes to show how central the Leamside Line is to our regional transport ambitions.
“We have heard time and time again how much people want to extend Metro and bring it to Washington in particular, so I'm thrilled we are taking this important step forward.
"This project is a key ambition within the North East Transport Plan and I'm sure will be welcomed by many including residents of Washington and the local business community. Better connectivity is great news for everyone the North East.”