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Business & Economy

Business leaders call on Government to revive ‘important’ Leamside Line

North East business bosses have called on Downing Street to revive a mothballed rail route.

Officials want Westminster to reopen the 21-mile Leamside Line between Tursdale, in County Durham, and Pelaw, in Gateshead.

In a letter to Downing Street, figures from organisations including the Northern Powerhouse Partnership and North East England Chamber of Commerce say the track’s restoration would be “one of the biggest actions the Government can take to level up” the region.

They say it would “open up opportunities for trade (and) vastly improve commuting links” by easing East Coast Main Line congestion, adding a proposed Metro connection from Pelaw to South Hylton, via Washington, would annually add more than £90 million to the economy and replace 1.7 million car journeys.

The Leamside Line closed to passengers in 1964, as part of Dr Richard Beeching’s cutbacks, and carried its last coal delivery in the early 1990s.

However, calls have increasingly grown for its reinstation, and a business case, part funded by the North East Local Enterprise Partnership and Transport North East, was earlier this year handed to rail minister Huw Merriman.

Labour too has thrown its support behind the campaign, recently telling a Transport for the North conference it would revive the line if successful at the general election.

Henri Murison, Northern Powerhouse Partnership chief executive, said: “The reopening of the Leamside Line, and in particular the commitment to the Washington Metro Loop, is a critical piece of infrastructure for the North East.

“Businesses across the region need, and want, investment into transport systems.

“For too long the North East has been left behind and we urge the Prime Minister to re-evaluate his Government’s commitment to transport infrastructure spend and invest further in the people of the North East.”

John McCabe, North East England Chamber of Commerce chief executive, added: “The proposed devolution deal for the North East includes a commitment from the Government to push forward plans for the Leamside Line.

“This is a positive development; however, it does not secure the funding needed to deliver the Leamside Line in full.

“We will continue to urge the Government to deliver the East Coast Main Line upgrades outlined in the Integrated Rail Plan between Northallerton and Newcastle.

“However, to reap the full benefits, we need the full reopening of the Leamside Line, which would improve reliability, resilience and further capacity on the East Coast Main Line, as well as provide extra capacity for freight growth and enhanced rail connectivity between the North East and Tees Valley.”

The letter is also signed by the North East Local Enterprise Partnership, CBI and the Federation of Small Businesses, as well as a number of further operators including Newcastle International Airport, Port of Tyne, Womble Bond Dickinson, Esh Construction and Sunderland BID.