TRANSPORT chiefs are calling for a neglected railway line to be revived as the basis of a new Tyne-Tees rail link.
In a column for The Journal today, Passenger Transport Authority (PTA) boss David Wood calls for a new railway line to connect the two main city regions of the North-East – creating a regional powerhouse with real economic clout.
He proposes re-opening the mothballed Leamside line, running from Heworth through Washington and down to Ferryhill in Durham before rejoining the main line to Middlesbrough.
The PTA is proposing a new line as business leaders and commuters continue to be frustrated by current options.
Of the two train links between the North-East cities, the direct coast route takes more than an hour. The alternative – on the East Coast Main Line – often involves a lengthy wait in Darlington.
Mr Wood, who is also a Newcastle councillor, said: “Neither option is attractive and this is reflected in the level of usage.
“Crucially, neither route can be much improved. Both are operating more or less at capacity and the nature of the Durham coast line will prevent it from ever offering fast journeys.”
Mr Wood said the reason why the seemingly obvious solution had not been adopted is because there is no long-term vision for the railway.
His ambitious plan was backed by business groups, who have repeatedly called for better links between the two city regions.
Ross Smith, head of policy at the North East Chamber of Commerce, said the rail improvements would strengthen the region’s economy.
He added: “The different industrial strengths of Tyne and Wear and Tees Valley complement each other very well – but we will not get the full benefit from this until the transport connections are really high quality.
“At present, neither the road nor the rail links between the two are good enough, which puts potential trade advantages at risk.”
The multi-million pound project would need more funding than currently available from the PTA, as well as the backing of the region’s top planning authority.
Regional development agency One NorthEast will soon be responsible for transport planning in the region, and the group has promised to look at the situation.
A spokesman said: “One of our first actions will be a real hard-headed assessment of our transport infrastructure, examining our international links – links between the region and London, Scotland and the west of the country, and links within our region.”