Campaigners have welcomed a government announcement backing the reopening of the Leamside Line through County Durham.

The mothballed Leamside line - which runs from Tyneside, through Washington, County Durham and joins up with the East Coast Mainline (ECML) at Ferryhill - will be reopened using funds from a scrapped HS2 link.

A new station at Ferryhill has also been promised as part of the announcement.

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It comes after PM Rishi Sunak confirmed he was scrapping the ‘northern’ leg of HS2 from Birmingham to Manchester and redirecting £36bn of funding to “hundreds” of infrastructure projects across the country.

A decades long campaign has taken place to reopen the route, which could increase capacity on the ECML and open up opportunities for a £745m extension of the Tyne and Wear Metro to Washington.

The campaign to restore services has been backed by cross-party MPs including Conservative Sedgefield MP Paul Howell and Washington and Sunderland West MP Sharon Hodgson.

Paul Howell, Conservative MP for Sedgefield, said: “I think this is a great day for North East transport.

“It is so important to the North East in terms of everything from resilience of the East Coast MainLine to getting the connections into places like Washington.

“I am really delighted that this government is delivering.

“I was a supporter of HS2 in its initial form, but it became all about speed. The Prime Minister is right - HS2 billions will be better spent on other projects. Now is an ideal time for the Government to take positive action that can transform transport, making use of existing infrastructure and cutting costs.

“I am pleased the Government is now looking into fully utilising the country’s existing resources, rather than pouring extra billions into the second leg of High Speed 2.  Reviving existing lines has the ability to improve lives, and rather than connecting major cities that already have links, bring effective public transport to areas that have been cut off for decades.”

But Labour politicians expressed doubt over the government's announcement saying the Tories’ record in government.

Middlesbrough MP Andy McDonald branded the new policies “hog wash”, saying, “Nobody looking at the last 13 years of Tory misrule will believe that scrapping HS2 and coming up with a new badge for northern transport schemes, the Tories have any real intention or the ability to deliver any of it.”

Henri Murison, Chief Executive of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership welcomed the news saying the cross-party campaign effort showed the region was stronger together.

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He said: “The government’s commitment to deliver the Leamside Line as part of Northern Powerhouse Rail, is welcome.

“This will allow improved freight and commuter rail capacity, including between Middlesbrough and Newcastle, and unlock more direct services from Newcastle to Leeds, Manchester including the Airport Station and Liverpool using the £12bn new line also promised today, which is in Parliament being agreed now as part of the Hybrid Bill process.”

“The cross-party campaigning on the issue, supported by business organisations, has been a testament to the importance of this issue not only to people in the North East, but across the North, the region being stronger together than alone in economic terms.”

Meanwhile John McCabe, Chief Executive of the North East Chamber of Commerce, said the promises will have to be backed up by funding and a "sensible, clear timetable".

He said: "“It’s positive to see some announcements around road infrastructure in the region, including the A1 and Blyth Relief Road, as well as an announcement on the Ferryhill station and a commitment to reopening rail lines to reconnect County Durham. These will have to be backed up by funding and a sensible, clear timetable for delivery, including the full reopening of the Leamside Line, if they are to be made real and meaningful. 

"We need to see a firm commitment to Northern Powerhouse Rail as well as local bus services. The government also needs to ensure schemes across the country are not set up to fail by competing for the same pots of funds. Without that, government will not deliver levelling up meaningfully."