North East councils to spend £60m on road and rail priorities

Council leaders in the North East have pooled their cash to show ministers they can work together, with 11 transport projects set for investment as a result

State of the City Debate at Newcastle Civic Centre Council Chamber
State of the City Debate at Newcastle Civic Centre Council Chamber

Nearly£60m will be spent on North East transport priorities after council chiefs bashed out a roads and rail rescue list.

Seven council leaders pooled their cash in an effort to show ministers they can be trusted to work together, with 11 projects set for investment as a result.

In Newcastle, £11m will be spent on the Haddricks Mill junction, the A167 Cowgate junction and the A189/B1318 Blue House roundabout.

Success came at a cost elsewhere, though, with Sunderland seeing its grand strategic corridor plan put on the B list.

It comes as a double blow for the city, which has had to abandon plans for an impressively designed new bridge over the River Wear.

Continuing Government cuts will mean a bridge planned to be the highest in the country with two interlocking horns rising from each river bank will now be downgraded to a more fundable design.

The budget for the project has been scaled down to £118m, not enough for the grander hopes.

Planners now expect a simplified cable-stayed design.

Council leaders pooled together £46.7m of their own local authority cash, with the expectation that the cost of the projects will come down. The leaders say the move will go a long way towards ensuring Whitehall, including the Department for Transport, that the North East can be trusted with spending decisions.

The seven councils involved are forming a Transport North East board as part of efforts to create a super-council merging key areas.

As well as transport, the group will look at skills funding and efforts to get the economy growing.

Newcastle leader Nick Forbes said: “This major transport scheme investment is an example of strong and visible collective leadership of the North East which demonstrates the ability of the region to deliver locally around a shared vision and manage devolved funding.

“These schemes will address a number of well-known bottlenecks on local roads, improving the daily commute for thousands of people and helping to ensure that the growth aspirations of the city are realised as we enter a key statutory phase of our local development framework.”

Also winning cash is the Metro station at Newcastle Central.

The Government had previously turned down a bid to bring forward funding to revamp the Metro section while the rest of station undergoes impressive regeneration.

A Nexus spokesman said: “It is good news that these schemes have reached this stage in the bid to attract funding.

“We are already committed to our plans for the refurbishment of Metro stations as part of the ‘Metro: all change’ programme.

“Any additional funding will allow us to deliver further improvements we would otherwise not have the budget for.”

The money is for work from 2015 to 2019.

Replay: Debate on future vision of Newcastle city centre 

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