The Government has been accused of ignoring the North East when pledging to improve rail infrastructure in Northern England.

Northern mayors and council leaders on the Transport for the North Board voiced their dismay at a meeting in Leeds on Wednesday when discussing a response to the Integrated Rail Plan (IRP).

They have now called on the Government to rethink its plans for the future of rail, claiming the proposals do not make economic sense and will restate their case for the Northern Powerhouse Rail plans, which they said are necessary to improve the economy in the North.

During a news conference after the meeting, Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham said: “The North has spoken with one voice.”

Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen is on the Transport for the North Board but did not attend Wednesday’s meeting due to another commitment.


Follow reporter Bill Edgar's journey to the meeting above

Read more: North East MPs react to scrapped rail plans in the North

In its IRP last week, the Government set out plans for a £17.2bn investment in Northern Powerhouse Rail. But the plan fell short of the full £42.1bn proposal put forward by Northern leaders which would have proved connections to cities in the region including in the North East.

The Northern Echo: North of Tyne Mayor Jamie DriscollNorth of Tyne Mayor Jamie Driscoll

North of Tyne Mayor Jamie Driscoll and Gateshead Council Leader Martin Gannon both questioned the Government’s levelling up policy in areas like the North East.

Mr Driscoll said: “On Monday when the Prime Minister was at the Port of Tyne, he was asked a question specifically about the IRP and the North East and he started talking about Manchester, Leeds and Nottingham.

“I’ve got to wonder, does he even know where the North is?

“The longer we leave the decision making to people who know more about Peppa Pig World than they do about the North East we’re going to continue to be left behind.”

The Labour Mayor, who serves Northumberland, Newcastle and North Tyneside, said Government funding and key decision making should be devolved to local authorities who better understand the area.

Read more: Campaign continues to reopen Leamside Line in County Durham

The Transport for the North members also gave its backing to the campaign to reopen the mothballed Leamisde Line.

Cross-party MPs have united to try and get the former line reinstated, which would pave the way for increased rail freight capacity.

However the mothballed track, which runs from Gateshead, through Washington, Penshaw, Fencehouses, West Rainton, Belmont and Shincliffe, before merging with the East Coast Main Line (ECML) at Ferryhill, was not included in the IRP.

“The Leamside Line is absolutely critical, and it’s of a massive benefit to the national rail network,” Mayor Driscoll added.

“It’s an old mothballed line that we can reopen for £600 million that will connect Washington and large parts of County Durham but also make Sunderland and South Tyneside better connected without having to go to Newcastle and then back out.

“Do we really need hundreds of billions to be put into HS2 in the South when we’re getting nothing in the North East? We’ve got cross-party unity and we’re not going to stand by and be let down without a fight.”

The Northern Echo: Martin Gannon overlooking the disused Leamside LineMartin Gannon overlooking the disused Leamside Line

Reacting to the IRP Cllr Gannon said: “Unlike the plans that we put together - we looked at the financial benefits, the added value to our own economies, improving the quality of life and income to our residents - there is no technical economic detail to this plan.

“The Government talked about levelling up and we came together around that vision and that’s why we’re so disappointed, so angry.

“We’re getting literally nothing. The urgent need for the North East was the reopening of the Leamside Line.”

Keep up to date with all the latest news on our website, or follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

You can also follow our dedicated County Durham Facebook page for all the latest in the area by clicking here.

For all the top news updates from right across the region straight to your inbox, sign up to our newsletter here.

Have you got a story for us? Contact our newsdesk on or contact 01325 505054