June 20, 2019 @ 12:00 by Steven Hugill
A £377 million bid to transform the North East’s transport network has been revealed.
A new passenger rail line for Northumberland, more park and ride services, improvements to bus, walking and cycle routes and more frequent Metro services all form part of the region’s bid for Government Transforming Cities funding.
If successful, the programme will be delivered over the next four years, after being approved by the North East Joint Transport Committee, which brings together the North East and North of Tyne combined authorities.
Councillor Martin Gannon, chair of the Joint Transport Committee, said: “We are seeking to transform the way people travel around the North East because that unlocks access to jobs, training and opportunity and drives the whole economy.
“We have built an ambitious programme, which reaches all parts of our region from Northumberland to Durham, to put simple, sustainable, environmentally-friendly travel at the heart of our plans for the North East’s future.
“Our final programme follows extensive engagement with businesses, developers and transport operators in the region.”
The £377 million bid will be the cornerstone of a £448 million programme of investment up to 2023 made up of five key themes.
They include £234.5 million to provide a new passenger rail line between Ashington, Blyth and Newcastle, and to deliver the Metro Flow Project to increase frequency, cut journey times and unlock future expansion of the network.
A further £82.9 million has been highlighted to make 16 miles of improvements to town and city centre bus corridors, and £59.1 million to transform 29 miles of cycle and walking routes, as well as cycle parking.
Additionally, £55.9 million has been earmarked to upgrade gateway rail stations, including a new terminal building and parking at Sunderland, and make major improvements to access in and around Newcastle Central station and better access to Durham station.
The plan also includes £15.6 million to build new and larger park and ride sites for bus and Metro passengers in Durham, Gateshead and north of Newcastle, as well as modernising payment.
The Department for Transport launched the Transforming Cities Fund in 2018 with 12 city-regions invited to bid for funding from a total pot of £1.28 billion.
The North East has already been successful, winning an initial £10 million that will be used on projects to encourage more travel by bus, cycling and walking.
The outline bid will be developed through dialogue with the Department for Transport over the coming months.
A final business case is expected to be submitted by the end of November and some schemes within the programme may change as a result.
A final announcement is expected in early 2020, and the revised programme will be delivered between 2020 and 2023 by local authorities and Nexus, which owns and manages Metro, in partnership with wider delivery agencies.