INVESTMENT IN the East Coast main line and extensions to the Tyne and Wear Metro and local rail network feature in the North East Transport Plan, on which authorities consulted at the turn of the year.
The plan includes an initial £6.1 billion of transformative projects, with 296 schemes planned across the region up to 2035. Schemes have been split into four categories: shovel ready, for imminent delivery, and those intended for delivery within five years, 10 years and beyond 10 years.
The region’s Metro and Local Rail Strategy is to be refreshed this year, building on improvements already planned through delivery of a new Metro fleet (to be built by Stadler) and the Metro Flow programme, which will increase capacity by doubling sections of the network in South Tyneside, allowing frequencies to be increased across the network. The North East Transport Plan states the new fleet makes the case for expansion stronger as the new trains will be more flexible – from the outset they will be capable of operating under battery power for up to 45 minutes.
Specific ambitions in the strategy for the Metro and local rail include system enhancements and station refurbishments, including at Monument, Sunderland and Cramlington, targeted for delivery between 2025 and 2030, alongside frequency and line of route enhancements in 2026. Restoration of passenger services on the Northumberland line from Newcastle to Blyth and Ashington is currently targeted for winter 2023, and there are ambitions to reopen the Leamside line, with initial services to the International Advanced Manufacturing Park targeted for 2029. Into the 2030s, plans are stated to open new stations at East Gateshead and Gilsland in 2031-32 and by 2035 to implement further extensions, including the remainder of the Leamside line, the Cobalt link and reopening the line to Consett, the latter the subject of a successful Restoring your Railway application to the Department for Transport’s Ideas fund (p9, last month).