CAMPAIGNERS hoping for the reopening of a railway axed 50 years ago have been told there are no immediate plans for the line.

Questions were asked in Parliament about the future of the Leamside line, a 21-mile stretch from Tursdale in County Durham to Pelaw, near Gateshead.

It follows an announcement last month by Transport Secretary Chris Grayling that lines closed during the Beeching cuts of the 1960s could be reopened.

Loading article content

Lord John Shipley, former Newcastle City Council leader and Liberal Democrat spokesperson on the Northern Powerhouse, raised the issue in the house of Lords, asking whether there were plans to re-open the link and what steps had been taken.

Baroness Sugg, an under-secretary for the department for transport, said no immediate decisions had been made to reopen the line.

She said: “The Government is working with local authorities and other partners to identify the best new rail projects that can unlock new housing and economic growth, ease overcrowding, meet future demand and offer good value for money.

“No immediate decisions have been made to reopen the Leamside line.”

It is hoped that re-opening the line would provide a rail or Metro link between Sunderland, Penshaw, Washington, Rainton and Durham.

Martin Haswell, a Wearside Liberal Democrat spokesman, said: “Re-opening the full length of the Leamside line would also provide a new direct rail link between Sunderland and Durham city centres that would be great for commuters and visitors alike.

“Whilst the Government’s reply wasn’t as positive as I would have liked, I think its a real boost to get this campaign raised in Parliament.”

The line was mothballed in 1992 and 16 miles of track was pulled up in 2016, having been targeted by scrap metal thieves.

However, campaigners have long called for its reopening, saying it would ease congestion on the A1(M) and East Coast Main Line.

A feasibility study was carried out around a decade ago, while the North-East Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) commissioned a study into the business case for reopening the line in 2014.

Earlier this year, shadow chancellor John McDonnell said Labour had plans, if elected, to spend £300m on reopening the line, linking Durham to the Tyne and Wear Metro.