THE people of the North East have been urged to get behind a “very powerful” £6.1 billion plan to radically overhaul the region’s transport network.

Local leaders gave their backing on Tuesday afternoon to the massive wish list, which includes almost 300 schemes such as extensions to the Tyne and Wear Metro, dozens of road upgrades, and major improvements to walking and cycling infrastructure.

It is hoped that the North East Transport Plan can help create and sustain 100,000 jobs, if the government can be persuaded to fund its wide-ranging projects over the next 15 years.

An eight-week public consultation on the draft proposals is now due to start on Thursday, after being approved by the North East Joint Transport Committee (JTC).

Gateshead Council leader and JTC chair Martin Gannon told the meeting that the £6.1 billion plans would “have a transformational impact” and that he had “never known such unity of purpose” between the seven councils behind them – Newcastle, Gateshead, Northumberland, Sunderland, County Durham, North Tyneside, and South Tyneside.

Coun Gannon said: “I am really proud that we have reached this stage. I think it reflects the collective ambitions of the whole of the North East community and stakeholders, and I’m proud that we can put it out to public consultation.

“We may get alternative views back, we may get suggested amendments, we may get improvements or criticism. But I think it is a very powerful vision and I am convinced that the North East of England will welcome and support the proposals we are putting forward.”

The huge list of schemes features some "shovel-ready" ideas such as the refurbishment of the Tyne Bridge and Central Motorway or introducing a single-ticket system shared across the region’s different public transport options.

But there are also dozens of longer-term ideas that could take a decade or more to deliver.They include dualling the A1 north of Newcastle and the A66 and extending the Metro in multiple directions, including to the west of Newcastle and across to the Metrocentre.

Among the biggest schemes listed in the wide-ranging document is the reopening of the Leamside railway line – which would pave the way for Metro and local rail services to be expanded or connected to Washington and Durham.

North East representatives will be at a crucial Transport for the North meeting on Wednesday and are pushing for that project to be part of a massive ‘Northern Powerhouse Rail’ blueprint that will be presented to the government.

Coun Carl Marshall, of Durham County Council, said: “If the government is serious about levelling up and allowing the North East to reach its full potential in terms of better access to transport, more and better jobs, us having a greener transport system, the full reopening of the Leamside line will help to create that capacity we need to allow our railways to breathe, to create local connectivity and for us to look at the extension of things like the Metro and light rail services locally.”

One scheme where progress is further ahead is the reopening of the Newcastle to Northumberland line, which would reconnect passenger services to and from the city with Ashington and Blyth.

A separate public consultation on that scheme, which could be up and running by 2023, was launched on Monday and has already attracted around 300 responses.

Northumberland County Council leader Glen Sanderson said: “It is a fantastic scheme… it will reduce the amount of car journeys by a huge amount, saving vast quantities of CO2 emissions and provide that necessary convenience factor for many people living in Northumberland to get to work in Tyneside and beyond.”

North of Tyne mayor Jamie Driscoll added: “It is not just about rail – that does the heavy lifting but it is about integrating everything else into it. That is the only way we are going to level up.”