Calls to reopen Leamside Line receive backing of Sunderland MP

A Sunderland MP has written to the Government, appealing for the reopening of a prominent railway line.

Bridget Phillipson, MP for Houghton and Sunderland South, said reopening the disused Leamside Line between Pelaw and Ferryhill, County Durham, would boost local jobs and livelihoods and create greater transport access to the area.

Ms Phillipson said she has spent 11 years campaigning for “the modern, well-connected transport infrastructure we deserve”.

She explained: “It’s not right that our area has had no access to rail services for decades – something that would be addressed by reopening the Leamside Line in full, with a station at Fencehouses.”

Ms Phillipson wrote to the Rail Minister Chris Heaton-Harris calling on the Government to consider a full reopening of the Leamside Line instead of a shortened ‘Leamside South’ option being considered by the Government.

She added: “This would not have any capacity for local passenger trains on the south end of the line, meaning there would be no station at Fencehouses, and that our constituency would still have no access to rail services.

“I’m worried that proceeding with Leamside South would be a short-sighted move, that simply won’t bring the same long-term benefits for local jobs, livelihoods, and our environment as reopening the Leamside Line in full.

“There are also questions about the environmental impact of a new line rather than the mothballed Leamside Line, which has been protected since its closure in 1991.”

In response, Mr Heaton-Harris said the Department of Transport received a bid to reinstate the line in the first round of the Restoring Your Railway Ideas Fund.

The project calls on MPs, local councils and community groups to propose how they could use funding to reinstate axed local services and restore closed stations.

He said: “The bid was not successful at that stage and feedback was provided on how it could be improved.

“A further round of the Restoring Your Railway Ideas Fund will open shortly and we expect to receive a stronger revised bid at that point.

“At this stage it is solely for the promoters of any bid to determine its scope.”

Last week, Gateshead Council leader Martin Gannon told the North East Joint Transport Committee of the “absolutely overwhelming” need for major investment in the region including the East Coast Mainline and the reopening of the disused Leamside Line.

The committee said putting freight trains on the Leamside Line would provide desperately needed extra capacity for more and faster trains on the East Coast Main Line, as well as paving the way for a major expansion of the Tyne and Wear Metro to Washington and County Durham.

How an expanded North East rail network, with new Metro and light rail lines, could look
How an expanded North East rail network, with new Metro and light rail lines, could look
(Image: Nexus)

It was revealed earlier this month that the Government has axed more than £100m of funding for smart ticketing initiatives across the North – dealing a massive blow to hopes of allowing passengers to use a single pass or a contactless credit card to travel across local bus, Metro, and rail services.

The North East Transport Plan, first revealed last November, features almost 300 schemes that it is hoped can be delivered over the next 15 years and create or sustain 100,000 jobs – if the government agrees to fund it.

Chronicle Live – Sunderland