Transport bosses have urged Network Rail to scrap plans to tear up the tracks on a mothballed railway line - arguing the move would be "short-sighted".
The company, which owns the country's railway infrastructure, revealed last month it is consulting on proposals to remove the assets from the Leamside line.
The railway, which runs from Pelaw in Gateshead to Ferryhill in south Durham, has been closed to freight services since 1992, and passengers since the mid-1960s.
However, campaigners insist, rather than abandon the line, it should be reopened to ease pressure on the East Coast Main Line - where some regional services, including the Tyne-Tees link, have been forced off due to congestion.
Network Rail insists the move is not a precursor to selling off the land, but will not add to the costs of reinstating the route.
But Tyne and Wear transport executive body Nexus, and the passenger transport authority which oversees it, claim it will accelerate dilapidation and increase the price of bringing it back into use.
PTA vice chairman Coun Joe Lawson said: "If Network Rail is serious about getting traffic off the roads it should be developing the Leamside Line instead of tearing it up.
"The route features in a number of regional transport strategies as an effective way to increase mainline rail capacity.
"What's the point of developing these plans to reduce road use when Network Rail drives a bulldozer through them?
"In 2002, Railtrack was talking about re-opening the line, but only four years later Network Rail wants to dig it up. This is incredibly short-sighted."
Coun Lawson, who is also the Sunderland Council cabinet member for transport and regeneration, added: "The potential it has as a route through Washington serving Newcastle and Durham is obvious to many people.
"It is ideally set for a park-and-ride facility, providing a fast journey into Newcastle, as an alternative to the crowded roads across the Tyne.
"The Leamside Line has been neglected, but that is no reason why we should not now look to the future and plan to reopen it to traffic."
Nexus said the line could be used by increasing numbers of trains carrying imported coal from Tyne Dock to Yorkshire power stations. It says routing these trains along the Durham Coast line will put pressure on a railway which currently carries freight, local passenger and Metro trains, and will in December see the introduction of the new Grand Central Railway services from Sunderland to London.