Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin visited Port of Sunderland to witness its rail lines being used for the first time in more than 20 years.
Yesterday, locomotive provided by BD Schenker Rail UK was given a trial run on the newly connected infrastructure, which will soon be used for commercial operations.
The event followed work by Network Rail to reinstate the former rail line between December 2014 and January of this year.
Yhe move is set to boost the import and export credentials of the port which, despite being at the heart of the North East coastline, has not had working train lines for more than two decades.
Port director Matthew Hunt said: “It’s fantastic to once again have rail connections at Port of Sunderland. We have always enjoyed great access to open sea, and the port is well placed in terms of its links to major roads and airports.
“However, for more than 20 years, Port of Sunderland has not seen any rail traffic coming into its heart. To have lines connected into the port is a huge step forward for us and it really was an important moment for us to see the lines in use once again.”
Mr McLoughlin said: “As part of the Government’s long term economic plan, we are investing record amounts in improving road and rail connections so that ports like Sunderland can realise their full potential and contribute to regional growth.
“The reconnection of the port’s rail link will boost its import and export capabilities significantly. I am proud to see this historic port being put firmly on the map again for freight and maritime projects and gearing up for more business.”
Overall, Network Rail reconnected almost half a mile of rail lines at the port, enabling an increase in the number of cargo handling projects it can manage.
Already, the port handles more 700,000 of cargo every year.
Neil McDonald, head of sales at DB Schenker Rail UK, said: “Britain’s ports are a vital link to overseas markets, but landing cargo in the port is not the end of the journey.
“Excellent transport links from ports to cities are essential in order for shippers to reach their final customer, and rail ensures low carbon, low congestion transport.
“Ports play a crucial part in DB Schenker Rail’s growth strategy and we are delighted to bring rail back to Port of Sunderland.”
As well as the rail connections, work is set to begin on the third Wear crossing at the Port this year.
Designed as a strategic transport corridor, the new bridge will provide better connections to trunk roads like the A19 and A1, ensuring access is as straightforward as possible.