Transport and business leaders in the North East have today made an impassioned plea to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to commit to a new Metro extension and the re-opening of the Leamside Line, which they say are vital to the region’s future prosperity.
Now our big National World titles in the North East – the Sunderland Echo, Newcastle World and the Shields Gazette – come together to fully support the urgent letter to the PM, sent by the North East Joint Transport Committee, with backing from a host of businesses and organisations, including Newcastle Airport, Port of Tyne and Newcastle United Foundation.
The letter reads:
Dear Prime Minister Sunak,
We write to you today as business leaders to call upon the Government to invest in North East infrastructure by supporting the re-development of a new Metro line in the region, a vital component of our region’s ambition to re-open the Leamside Line in full.
We have been promised full delivery of Northern Powerhouse Rail – which includes re-opening the Leamside Line in full - by successive Prime Ministers. ‘Core’ Northern Powerhouse Rail is not full delivery and delivers only very limited benefits for the North East.
Rescinding on promises made about the Leamside Line is not what the North East needs.
We welcome the proposed devolution deal for the North East and the Government’s commitment in the deal to work with the region to push forward plans for the Line. This is a positive development for this strategically vital infrastructure project; however, it does not secure the funding needed to deliver the Leamside Line in full.
Leamside is the most important transport infrastructure investment needed for our region. Investment which is critical to the success and economic development of the region and one of the biggest actions that the UK Government can take to level up the North East. Investing in its future is a win for the UK Government and a win for the people of the North East.
Transport North East has submitted a Strategic Outline Case to Government for the new ‘Washington Metro Loop’ - a new Metro connection from Pelaw to South Hylton via Washington, with new stations proposed in Follingsby, Washington North and Washington South.
The Washington Metro Loop forms part of a wider project to re-open the Leamside Line, with work already underway with the development of the new Ferryhill station in County Durham.
It is predicted that the new Metro line will:
- generate over £90m per year in economic benefits to the region. Each Metro trip taken in the region generates £11.80 for the economy
- create nearly 8m additional passenger journeys a year
- reduce carbon emissions by nearly 87,000 tonnes a year by replacing nearly 1.7m car journeys per year – the equivalent of over half a million trees each year
- give Washington - the fourth largest town without access to a rail service - new connections to Newcastle, Sunderland and Newcastle Airport
- Employers will have improved access from between 13,000 to 38,000 new workers
- New Metro and improved access for between 38,000 and 105,000 residents and workers
The £745m investment required outlined in the Strategic Outline Case is investment that our region needs to grow and is investment that will pay for itself in under nine years. This cost equates to under 1% of the overall Government commitment to the Integrated Rail Plan for the North, which has a total cost of commitment of £96 billion across the UK.
Re-opening Leamside, and in particular the Washington Metro Loop, will enable parts of the region - who have no access to rail - to be connected with Newcastle, Sunderland and Teesside, as well as with significant employers like Nissan, Hitachi and Amazon. The £90m per year in economic benefits enabled by the Washington Metro Loop alone is key to the growth of new and existing businesses within the region.
The Washington Metro Loop also provides new business and local people with additional links to the International Advanced Manufacturing Park (IAMP) and Follingsby Park as well as vital access to labour markets within the wider North East.
Importantly, re-opening Leamside multiplies the Government’s investment in the Northumberland Line and in the new Ferryhill station and Stillington line from Durham to Teesside, and is the missing connection between recent Government investment in the north and south of the region and would connect South East Northumberland to Washington, Durham and Teesside.
While East Coast Main Line (ECML) upgrades outlined in the Integrated Rail Plan between Northallerton and Newcastle do make a start for the region, and we urge the Government to press on with this, re-opening Leamside is one of the biggest actions that the UK Government can take to level up the North East. It is a win for the UK Government and the people of County Durham, Gateshead, Newcastle, Northumberland, North Tyneside, South Tyneside and Sunderland.
We urge you and your Government to come to the table and work with us as business leaders, local politicians and Transport North East to deliver this project. It is hugely cost effective in comparison to other big rail projects recently completed in the south of England and forms a small part of the overall Integrated Rail Project for the North.
As part of the levelling up agenda, the Government needs to ensure that the North East receives its fair share of infrastructure benefit to ensure economic growth and prosperity in the region.
We look forward to hearing from you.
Cllr Martin Gannon
Chair of the North East Joint Transport Committee and Leader of Gateshead Council
Signed by: Aphrodite Clothing, Esh Group, Federation of Small Businesses, Foundation of Light, Gateshead College, Hodgson Sayers Ltd, Karbon Homes, Knight Frank, Net Zero North East, Newcastle Airport, Newcastle Gateshead Initiative, Newcastle United Foundation, North East England Chamber of Commerce, North East Local Enterprise Partnership, Northern Powerhouse Partnership, Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner, Northumbrian Water, PNE Enterprise, Port of Tyne, Siemens UK, Sunderland BID, Sunderland Black and Minority Ethnic Network Limited, techUK, Womble Bond Dickinson (UK) LLP
They say the new Metro loop to link up Washington with the existing network could be worth £90million a year in economic benefits to the region, improving connectivity to Suderland, Newcastle and South Tyneside as well as major employers such as Nissan, IAMP and Amazon.