A new vision of how the North East’s rail system can be upgraded over the next decade is set to be signed off next week.
The first North East Rail and Metro Strategy includes a raft of ambitious proposals – including a new station at Belford and improvements to the ‘wholly inadequate’ existing service to residents of Pegswood, Widdrington, Acklington and Chathill.
The proposal also highlights a lack of a direct service from North Tyneside to the East Coast Main Line and says: “Possible future access will be explored as part of further study work required on ECML North of Newcastle.”
The possibility of multiple extensions to the Tyne and Wear Metro, with a new ‘inner loop’ in North Tyneside to serve new stations at the Silverlink and Cobalt business park, are also highlighted.
It is suggested old tracks previously utilised to transport coal to the River Tyne could be reused, thereby creating a shorter North Tyneside loop service that would not travel to the coast.
Ahead of a meeting of the North East Joint Transport Committee to formally adopt the plan, Gateshead Council leader Martin Gannon said: “Our sights are firmly set on reopening the Leamside Line and extending the Metro and we are already taking steps to make these ambitions a reality.
"We also want to drive investment in the East Coast Main Line in the North East and we’ll continue to make our region’s case for funding from central Government to boost capacity.
“These developments will allow us to achieve our health and economic goals and help local people to access better opportunities – whether that’s for employment, leisure or education. We want to connect new communities to our rail network, driving more green journeys, tackling air pollution head-on while reducing reliance on the private car.”
The strategy highlights eight potential extensions. Putting trains back on the abandoned Leamside Line is one of North East leaders’ top priorities. It is seen as vital to increasing capacity on the congested East Coast Main Line route as it would provide an alternative path for slow-moving freight trains. A link from the East Coast Main Line to Newcastle Airport is also included.