COMMENT: Why new Metro loop and Leamside route should be PM's 'lines of duty'
When Prime Minister Rishi Sunak looks at his in-tray today, a letter that is vital to our region's future will be nestled amongst the correspondence that requires his attention.
We urge him to read it thoroughly and to act on its every word.
Because for far too long, we have been a poor relation when it comes to transport infrastructure. And now here is a real opportunity to do something about that.
The vision for a new Metro loop to connect Washington, as part of the wider reopening of the Leamside Line, is an exciting one, passionately articulated by members of the North East Joint Transport Committee and supported by a host of high-profile businesses and organisations. Make no mistake, this opportunity could be a game-changer for generations.
It has the full backing of ourselves at National World. For the communities served by the Sunderland Echo, Newcastle World and the Shields Gazette, the many benefits are tangible. In the days ahead, our websites and newspapers will work together to be real advocates for this. Whether you're from the Tyne or the Wear, whatever your political allegiance, this matters to all of us.
The new Metro extension, it is said, could bring in £90million worth of economic benefits every year. It could reduce car journeys on our already under-pressure roads by a staggering 1.7million. It's not just the economy that benefits, it's the enviroment too.
It would mean improved connectivity for those not currently served by the Metro network to major employers such as Nissan, Amazon, the IAMP and Port of Tyne. It puts Newcastle Airport in easier reach for thousands of residents, likewise our major shopping centres in Sunderland and Newcastle and, of course, our stunning coastline. Just days after Metro unveiled its new state-of-the-art carriages to transport passengers around the network, so we now need new stations on the map too.
It's an initiative that has also seen those old football rivals of Sunderland and Newcastle United to team up, via their charitable foundations, to recognise what a game-changer better transport links would mean to those communities that currently feel disenfranchised.
There are no football points to be won here, but as the letter to the PM clearly states: "It is a win for the UK Government and the
people of County Durham, Gateshead, Newcastle, Northumberland, North Tyneside, South Tyneside and Sunderland."
They are not asking for fantasy financial investment here. Far from it, indeed the £745million cost for the initial project is highly cost effective when compared to certain other programmes recently completed in the south. Compare it to the cost of the Bond Street Station development in London and you get the picture.
'Levelling up'. Two words that have been so often spoken in recent times. Two words this Government has staked its reputation upon. Two words with endless possibilities.
But actions, as we all know, speak louder than words. Which is why we'll be watching closely as to what happens next.
So if the PM and his colleagues are truly of a mind to ensure a better, fairer future for the North East then they must fully commit to the new Metro extension and the reopening of the Leamside route as absolute priorities.
No excuses. No half measures.
These must be their lines of duty...