Calls to fund a £20m project that will support resurrecting a closed railway line that runs between County Durham and Tyne and Wear have been made. 

The Leamside Line, a 21-mile route that runs between Pelaw, Gateshead and Tursdale, County Durham closed in 1964.

Campaigners have long said reopening the route - which runs from Gateshead, through Washington, Penshaw, Fencehouses, West Rainton, Belmont and Shincliffe to Ferryhill - could increase capacity on the ECML and open up opportunities for a £745m extension of the Tyne and Wear Metro, bringing a huge economic boost to the region.

The Northern Echo: Leamside LineLeamside Line (Image: PA MEDIA)

In October, the Leamside Line was listed as one of the projects to be completed with funds from a scrapped HS2 link from Birmingham to Manchester.

But within 24 hours, it had disappeared from the list and hopes of reopening the route had disappeared. 

Now, North East mayoral candidate Kim McGuinness has started a campaign to convince ministers to fund the Outline Business Case needed to reopen vital Northern rail infrastructure.

The Northern Echo: Kim McGuinness, Northumbria Police and Crime CommissionerKim McGuinness, Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner (Image: Contributor)

Speaking at the Rail Industry Association conference in Newcastle last Thursday (November 23), the current Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner said that the Government had to start the work now if it was to see economic growth in years to come, and said the minimum first step was funding the business case.

The conference heard that the North East needs both the Metro Washington extension and the full Leamside Line reopened to create an extensive new network of local stations on the reopened lines.

The outline business case Washington Metro Loop still needs £8.5m of work, with a similar amount at least expected to be needed to fund the initial stages of work preparing the case for the Leamside Line South.

The two railway projects together would link up passengers in Durham through to Wearside, Tyneside and Northumberland, according to Mrs McGuinness.

The Northern Echo: Gateshead Council leader and chair of the North East Joint Transport Committee, Martin GannonGateshead Council leader and chair of the North East Joint Transport Committee, Martin Gannon (Image: MARTIN GANNON)

She said: “Reopening this line is clearly vital to the North East. We know Government has u-turned on funding the full plan, but we remain ambitious.

“That’s why today I am calling on the Government to at least now fund the business case for re-opening the line.

“The costs are significant. The outline work for the Washington Metro Loop and the Leamside South – giving us the full Leamside Line over two projects – would easily come close to £20m.

“If the Government is serious about backing this line, funding this Outline Business Case is a good start.

“We know this is possible. The Northumberland line, linking Newcastle, Ashington and Blyth, is ready to reopen soon, and it did so after Government funded the detailed business case and early site work with a £34m grant. Co-incidentally, that railway line goes to a key Tory target seat.

“We can’t have one part of the region played off against another. We need full investment in our rail infrastructure and if we can’t have that we at least need support for the early stages.”

She was backed by Martin Gannon, Gateshead Council leader, who said the Government had to match the region’s transport ambitions.

Mr Gannon, chair of the North East Joint Transport Committee, added: “We continue to stress with ministers the need for investment in both the Leamside Line and the East Coast Main Line in our region – unlocking the full potential of rail across the North East and beyond.

“The North East continues to suffer from a major bottleneck on the East Coast Main Line which stifles our economic growth. Transport funding in our region is miniscule compared with the significant levels of investment in rail in the south, and we continue to make the case for national funding to help us deliver on our economic goals.

“Investment in the ECML in the short-term would be game-changing for our residents and businesses and would release more paths to boost our rail services dramatically.

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“In the longer-term, re-opening the Leamside Line - a disused 21-mile railway running from Gateshead, via Washington, to Ferryhill in County Durham - would reduce capacity constraints on the ECML and trigger a major growth in freight. It would also allow us to build stations in communities currently isolated from the rail network.”

In response to ongoing discussions about the Leamside Line, a government spokesperson said: “We are funding a new Ferryhill Station, and providing around £1.8 billion funding to the North East – an investment only possible due to the billions of pounds redirected from HS2.

“This investment will empower local leaders to fund the transport projects that matter most to their communities – including funding for the Leamside Line if they choose to.

"We are working closely with Transport North East as they work on the business case for the re-opening of the Leamside Line.”