Leamside Line reopening plans set to be unveiled in the New Year
Plans for North East transport chiefs to seize control of long-awaited proposals to reopen the Leamside Line could be unveiled in the New Year.
A commitment to reopen the route between Pelaw on the South Tyneside- Gateshead border, and County Durham, and running through Wearside, was left out of the government’s recent Integrated Rail Plan (IRP) due to the “prohibitive” cost of the scheme.
However, Ministers have not yet closed the door fully on the project, suggesting instead it could be taken on as part of a future “city region settlement” deal.
“The HS2 eastern leg and the Northern Powerhouse rail schemes were scaled back significantly [in the IRP],” said Tobyn Hughes, managing director of Transport North East.
“As a consequence, neither will see investment in routes that will allow high speed services in the future to come to the North East of England.
“Although the report discusses investment in the East Coast Mainline in our region to release a seventh and possibly eighth path between York and Newcastle for passenger services, it effectively rules out investment in the Leamside Line as a national scheme.
“Instead, it says it would be best considered as part of any future city region settlement and the IRB is also silent about investment in the East Coast Mainline to the north of Newcastle.”
The Leamside Line was shut down in 1964, but its reopening has consistently been on the wish list of regional leaders.
It is hoped the restoration of the route would pave the way for an extension of the Tyne and Wear Metro to Washington and even Durham City, and boost transport links in South Tyneside.
It is also predicted the line could increase capacity on the East Coast route by 50% by creating an alternative path for slow-moving freight trains.
North East transport chiefs have previously fumed that the region received “practically nowt” from the government’s recently unveiled rail proposals.
Martin Gannon, chair of the North East Joint Transport Committee and leader of Gateshead Council, said: “The reopening of the Leamside Line was included as part of the Northern Powerhouse Rail plans, but I think it very much merits inclusion on its own merits.”