Transport group issues plea on Metro finance
THE Government was urged last night to “urgently” approve £300m plans to link up the North East.
Members of the Tyne and Wear Integrated Transport Authority called on Treasury bosses to ensure finance for an essential Metro upgrade is handed over before the election.
They also renewed calls to improve links between Teesside and Tyneside by re-opening the Leamside line.
It would cost around £70m to reopen the 21-mile line, from Durham to Tyneside, which would allow slow freight trains to be diverted away from the East Coast Main Line and allow passenger trains to run more quickly.
It would also enable passengers to travel between the two urban centres, via Sunderland, in under an hour.
Both the Metro cash and the Leamside plans are seen as key components for the region as it seeks to make the most of its economic potential.
Metro bosses have already handed control of the rail service to a German company after ministers ordered that the contract be put out to tender as a condition of the £300m improvement fund. But despite meeting all the conditions, the region has seen the timetable for payment delayed as the issue becomes stuck in Government committees.
Peter Wood, who sits on the Tyne and Wear transport group, last night called on ministers to ensure civil servants completed the final sign-off.
The Sunderland councillor said: “From our point of view, we are very anxious that the Government signs up and says they are fully behind Metro reinvigoration.
“We have done all we have been asked to do, in terms of market testing and bringing in new operators.