A council boss says he is ‘confident’ a planned £41million business park in South Tyneside will be connected to the Metro system.
South Tyneside Council leader Coun Iain Malcolm says the transport system being linked to the International Advanced Manufacturing Park (IAMP) is vital.
Coun Malcolm admitted it could take up to 10 years before tracks could be extended that far, but added: “It’s no good having 5,000 new jobs if residents in South Shields, Jarrow and Hebburn can’t get to the site.”
Coun Malcolm made his comments at a meeting of the council’s overview and scrutiny co-ordinating and call-in committee.
He said: “We need to talk to Nexus about how we can expand the Metro to go to the IAMP site. I’m really confident we may be able to get some link with the Metro from South Shields to the IAMP.
“That’s a long-term aspiration and it may take up to a decade to achieve that.”
The IAMP project is a joint scheme between South Tyneside Council and Sunderland City Council.
Over the next 10 to 15 years the 150-hectare site north of the Nissan plant, off the A19, is expected to bring in about £400million of private sector investment and more than 7,000 jobs.
The prospect of extending the Metro to Washington from Pelaw by the old Leamside Line was raised in the Metro Strategy 2030 report.
This suggested new stations in north and south Washington and Washington Galleries shopping centre, although it also estimated total costs to be about £253million.
Sunderland City Council leader Graeme Miller said a new line could ‘easily’ be completed within 10 years if funding could be secured.
He added: “The thing that’s bad for us up here is our poor connectivity, whether that’s by road, rail or air.
“What makes us unattractive sometimes for businesses is that people have to drive to everything on crowded roads.
“If you can get that extension to Sunderland and Washington that will put a lot less people in cars and on the Metro.
“It will be cleaner, greener and faster, and will help with clean air, which a lot of local authorities are finding uncomfortable.”
Builders began work on the IAMP’s first factory in August.
A government City Deal in 2015 attracted investment worth £41million for the site through the North East Local Enterprise Partnership’s (LEP) £270million Local Growth Fund for infrastructure, including new roads, bridges and other environmental enhancements.
A Nexus spokesman said: “We’re working on behalf of the region’s two combined authorities to make the case for expansion to Metro and win the funding that would be needed to make it happen.
“High-quality transport links through the International Advanced Manufacturing Park, including Metro, is one of the key routes we are focusing on.”
James Harrison, Local Democracy Reporting Service