Rail Minister Huw Merriman has said a decision on restoring the Leamside Line is up to North East leaders.

Speaking on a visit to the Northumberland Line in Blyth, Mr Merriman said his department would provide ‘resources’ to move towards a business case. However, he said it would be up to the North East to decide if they wanted the line to progress.

The Leamside Line, which runs from Pelaw in Gateshead to Tursdale in County Durham, was at the centre of a controversy in October after the restoration of the disused line was included among an initial list of pledges the Government made under Rishi Sunak’s £36bn new Network North transport programme – only to be dropped within 24 hours. At the time, the DfT said the huge project “could” be part-funded by a £1.8bn funding settlement that will be given to the new North East mayor.

Speaking last week, Mr Merriman said: “As soon as the Prime Minister’s Network North announcement was made, I met with the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for the Leamside Line as well as the team from the North East.

"They want to hit the ground running with devolved money and they want to use that money to open the Leamside Line.

“My department is providing the resources to help them move towards a business case – that is going on right now and I really hope we can see the Leamside project funded from the devolved settlement.

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“That will be for the North East to decide if they want to – it seems like they do, and we want to work with them to make that happen.”

The project is expected to cost well over £1 billion.

Speaking in October, Tobyn Hughes, managing director of Transport North East, said that the £1.8bn funding offered to the mayor, which would cover all transport schemes in the region and not just Leamside, is “unlikely” to be enough to pay for the project – or even just the Washington Metro Loop element of it, the price of which has been estimated at £745m.