The closure of a famous South Tyneside industrial landmark could pave the way for a £30million upgrade of Metro services in the borough.
The Gazette revealed last week that the Shell UK oil terminal in Priory Road, Jarrow, had closed after more than 50 years of operation.
Dualling track will bring huge benefitsStephen Hepburn
It means a single track Network Rail freight line on which oil trains travelled to the terminal is out of use.
Now it has emerged that transport operator Nexus is to look at the possibility of utilising that stretch of line – which runs parallel to the Metro – to enable the dualling of the track between Pelaw and Jarrow stations.
Metro trains face delays because of single tracking along the route. A dual track could address that and lead to more frequent services.
Transforming the freight line for Metro use would cost an estimated £20million to £30million and would require a “robust” business case to be made to Government ministers.
But a Nexus spokesman said if achieved it would result in a better service for borough commuters.
He said: “Converting the existing freight line for Metro trains is one potential future use for the track, which would open the possibility of more frequent services as well as underpinning reliability.
“That would depend on how plans now develop for the oil terminal site and the surrounding area, and what that means in terms of other trains using the line.”
Jarrow MP Stephen Hepburn today welcomed the move – despite Shell’s closure.
He said: “The Shell oil terminal in Jarrow is a part of the town’s proud industrial history and I am sad to learn of its closure after 50 years.
“However, I believe that the possible plan to dual the track between Pelaw and Jarrow would bring huge benefit to passengers and improve the service along that route.”
A South Tyneside Council transport representative today gave an enthusiastic welcome to the track-dualling proposal.
Coun Gladys Hobson is a member of the North East Combined Authority transport committee and Labour representative for West Park, South Shields.
She said: “There would be fantastic advantages of dualling the track. It has been on the agenda for a long time.
“At the moment trains have to stop and wait to allow each to pass and dualling would enhance times along that route.
“It hasn’t been possible to do this in the past because of the narrowness of the area of track. This could be a great opportunity, although acquiring government cash is never easy.”
The oil storage facility, which is owned by South Tyneside Council, is now being decommissioned with discussions ongoing with several parties over the future of the land.