Council chief 'very confident' Metro extension into Washington will go ahead
Long-awaited plans to extend the Metro to Washington could finally be edging closer to reality.
The prospect of an expansion of the Tyne and Wear transport system has been hinted at for years, with tentative proposals suggesting links as far as Ashington, Doxford or even Ferryhill, in County Durham.
But it is hoped the development of a major new manufacturing park on Wearside could be the catalyst needed to add a ‘South Tyne and Wear Loop’ to the network.
And it is hoped a new generation of trains due to enter service in 2021 capable of running on existing industrial rail lines will make it even quicker to add new stops.
“I’m very confident,” said Iain Malcolm, leader of South Tyneside Council, “we haven’t seen a significant expansion of the Metro in the last 20 years.
“The rolling stock that’s coming was [bought with] a grant from the government and the new trains can run on freight lines as well as Metro lines, which the current rolling stock can’t, so it means extending the Metro will be easier.
“It will still be a challenge, but a much easier challenge because the rolling stock can run on freight lines and some of the freight line infrastructure is already in place.
“We have to keep making the case for South Tyneside and lobbying for the best transport solutions for South Tyneside because we don’t fully know what that is yet – should the Metro extension, if we can get it, run via Tyne Dock through to Boldon?
“Is it even physically possible to do that?”
Coun Malcolm added Nexus, the organisation which operates the Tyne and Wear Metro, is already studying the ‘geography and topography’ of possible expansion sites.
The possibility of a Metro extension to Washington was raised earlier this year with plans to link to the International Advanced Manufacturing Park (IAMP), a partnership between South Tyneside Council and Sunderland City Council.
Work started on the IAMP in May on land next to the Nissan car plant and it is hoped the £400million project could create up to 7,000 new jobs in the region.
Coun Malcolm said: “In the initial stages a bus service which will be going to IAMP from South Shields, Jarrow and Hebburn, but eventually we want to see the Metro extended from South Shields, through Jarrow and Hebburn, and through to Washington.
“That will also mean people from Washington can get to South Shields much quicker and it will mean people in South Tyneside can get through to Washington.
“Going further, Sunderland has the expectation that the Metro, where it stops at the moment at South Hylton, will continue under the A19 and through to South Tyneside, creating a South Tyne and Wear Loop in the same way there’s a loop north of the Tyne.”