‘Trams’ could be running around town centres in the Tees Valley in the next two years, Ben Houchen has today claimed.

It is one of 26 transport projects the tory mayor revealed he hopes to achieve, or start, using £1bn from the scrapping of HS2.

Potential rail devolution, digital traffic lights, new rail stations, and studies into a host of projects including a possible tunnel under the Tees were also mentioned during the bumper speech in a chilly building site at Middlesbrough Station on Monday.

Houchen says the ‘tram’ development of 15 circular ‘hop on, hop off’ town centre services will cost just £20m.

The Northern Echo: Ben Houchen announced a huge list of transport plans.Ben Houchen announced a huge list of transport plans. (Image: SA)

The vehicles will be trackless and run in Darlington, Middlesbrough, Redcar, Stockton and Hartlepool town centres.

He also hopes to achieve a ‘metro-like’ light-rail service between the towns with trains running every 10 minutes after investments at stations across the area are completed.

Labour slammed the announcements as being 'gimmicks'.

Ben Houchen said: “Trams will be running around the Teesside, Darlington and Hartlepool areas in the next two years. I’ve said two years, but I think it could be sooner than that, but within two years there’ll absolutely be trams running around.

“There’ll be a pilot starting in the next six months where we will be ironing out some of the wrinkles around Teesside Airport where we will be running these autonomous trams backwards and forwards to test them so when we rollout the trams across all the towns in our region they can hit the ground running.

Pre-announced projects also mentioned include the £250m Darlington link road and new rail stations at Teesside Airport and Teesside Park worth more than £170m. A third platform will also be added at Middlesbrough station.

The Northern Echo: £35m is being set aside to make rail freight improvements.£35m is being set aside to make rail freight improvements. (Image: SARAH CALDECOTT)

£50m has also been pencilled in for a scheme on the A689 between Hartlepool and Stockton, along with £15m to progress a new Tees flyover.

Challenged on whether the extensive wish-list of projects could realistically be delivered on time and for just £1bn Lord Houchen told the Echo: “Nothing’s a might happen, everything’s going to get delivered.

“It’s deliverable, that’s why we’ve put the list up there. That’s what I’m saying we can deliver for £1bn.

“I also think it’s fair to say government projects often go on too long and cost a lot more, but I think if you look at our record all of the projects we’ve delivered have been on budget.

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“There is some fat in the figures because we’ve tried to look at worse case, if there were overruns and make sure the financial package, we’re proposing is the package we’re going to deliver and won’t overrun.”

The Northern Echo: Chris McEwan, Labour candidate to be Tees Valley Mayor.Chris McEwan, Labour candidate to be Tees Valley Mayor. (Image: Contributor)

Labour mayoral candidate Chris McEwan said: “Lord Houchen in the same breath decried HS2 as a white elephant, and announced a plan for driverless cars to go with his underground tunnel and the hospital he doesn't have the power to build. “

“Proper investment in our roads and rail is long overdue, and some of this work should've started 7 years ago when he was first elected.”

“We need to really focus on connecting community to opportunity.”

“As Tees Valley Mayor, I'll implement an ambitious, long term strategy for our roads, rail and buses. Not rely on gimmicks.”

Meanwhile Henri Murison from the Northern Powerhouse Partnership said the £1bn from HS2 being cancelled won’t be freed up until 2027.

Henri Murison, Chief Executive of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership, said: “No funding from the cancellation of the Northern leg of HS2 will be available until 2027 and any money spent on these plans before then must come from previously allocated funds.

“In order to improve connectivity between the North East and Manchester, we need more capacity north of York to Newcastle. Without this we cannot add much-needed extra trains from Darlington.”