'Give us the money' - £7billion transport plan approved for North East

Hopes of a £7billion transport revolution in the North East have been officially endorsed by the region’s leaders.

Tuesday, 16th March 2021, 5:56 pm
The Victoria Viaduct, which carries the Leamside Line, one of the projects outlined in the £7billion transport bid for the North East which has been agreed.

The area’s seven councils and the North of Tyne mayor gave their backing on March 16 to a vision that would dramatically alter our road, rail, bus, walking, and cycling infrastructure by 2035.

Almost 250 projects costing an estimated £6.8billion are listed in the new North East Transport Plan, including the reopening of the disused Leamside railway line, extensions of the Metro system, and the building of new bridges over the Tyne and Wear.

But delivering on the lofty ambitions will be dependent on Government agreeing to put up the money for them, something which local leaders say would only represent a “fair share” for the North East after decades of neglect.

Gateshead Council leader Martin Gannon told the North East Joint Transport Committee (JTC) on Tuesday that London receives £3,636 per person in transport funding – seven times more than the £519 per head in the North East.

Coun Gannon, who chairs the JTC, added: “I expect London to get more money spent on it than the North East of England. Something like a quarter or a fifth of the population of the whole UK lives in London or the Greater London area and is responsible for about 56% of GDP.

“I fully get it, I am not stupid. But this is per head, and the figure for the North East of England is £519 per head.

“I don’t want anything special, we don’t want the North East to get any more than its fair share. All we want is a level playing field.

“This is 20, 30, 40, 50 years of disproportionate underfunding and all we want is a fair share.”

North of Tyne mayor Jamie Driscoll added: “They [the Government] keep telling the whole country how they are levelling us up – here is the shovel-ready scheme they need, they just need to give us the money and we will do it.”

Almost 3,400 people responded to a six-week consultation on the huge transport plan, but Newcastle City Council leader Joyce McCarty raised concerns that the comments were skewed towards middle-aged men; 61% of the respondents were male and over half were aged 55 or over.

The plans include reopening the Leamside line, which runs between Ferryhill and Pelaw, to restore rail services to communities like Washington for the first time in decades – a move that would also pave the way for an expansion of the Tyne and Wear Metro and boost capacity on the East Coast Mainline.

Other projects listed include the creation of a contactless payment system connecting all forms of public transport in the North East, dualling the A1 all the way to the Scottish border, a footbridge between the Stadium of Light and the old Vaux Brewery site in Sunderland, and a possible new road bridge over the Tyne at Blaydon.

There are also plans for ‘Bus, Cycles & Electric Vehicles only’ lanes across Wearside, a £40m renovation of the Tyne Bridge and Central Motorway, improved capacity on the A19, and new bus stations in Alnwick and Blyth, plus many more upgrades across Newcastle, Gateshead, Northumberland, North Tyneside, South Tyneside, Sunderland, and County Durham.