Work is under way to reconnect the Port of Sunderland to rail lines that were last used almost 20 years ago.
Three to six months of works will take place to reconnect almost half a mile of rail line which will become operational in the first quarter of 2015.
The rail connection will connect to the heart of the port, allowing for increased freight movement.
Matthew Hunt, director of Port of Sunderland, said the work would help the port to compete on a greater scale.
Import and export business at the port is expected to grow again, following the announcement earlier this year that Sunderland had been successful in a bid with South Tyneside to win Government funding that will help it build an International Advanced Manufacturing Park, which will be home to automotive, offshore and other high-tech businesses, between them creating more than 1,000 jobs.
The port has experienced a turnaround in recent years and now handles more than 593,383 tonnes of cargo each year.
Mr Hunt said: “Port of Sunderland really is transforming. In the last few years, we have added two new cranes – one a heavy lift crane - and a ro-ro ramp to our facilities, all things that have provided a boost to the port’s handling capabilities.
“Teaming that with improved connections will make a huge difference to the port, and we are delighted that work is under way to reconnect the rail connections.”
The rail lines being brought back to life were last used in 1995, and the port has two of its own locomotives which were mothballed after activity on the line stopped.
As well as rail connections, the port is also set to be boosted when work begins on the third Wear crossing in 2015.
Described as a ‘strategic transport corridor’, the new bridge will better connect the port to trunk roads like the A19 and A1.
Coun Paul Watson, leader of Sunderland City Council and chair of the port board, said: “Port of Sunderland has enjoyed a real revival in recent years and is contributing positively to the city economy.
“To have a port with such strong natural assets - and boasting almost unrivalled closeness to open sea – is a real strength for Sunderland, and we need to do everything we can to maximise the economic impact it is able to have.
“The addition of rail connectivity, coupled with the arrival of a new bridge will allow the port to really take its operations to the next level. It’s a great step forward.”
Mark Tarry, Network Rail area director, added: “We are delighted to assist the port in putting its rail lines back into use. Network Rail is committed to supporting local economy and to promoting rail freight – both aims that will be supported by reconnecting lines into and out of the port.
“We expect that the rail lines will be fully operational and in use from 2015. We would like to stress to the public that the area of railway land adjacent to the port is not safe to use for walking or recreational use.”