The North East Combined Authority (NECA) in the UK has approved a plan to invest £1bn in metro and local rail services around Newcastle and Sunderland.
The 20-year strategy aims to improve passenger journies, identifying networks of disused or under-used rail routes across Northumberland, Durham, and Tyne.
NECA's transport lead member Cllr Nick Forbes said: “We have approved an ambitious strategy for expansion of local rail across our region, tied in with continued investment, development, and expansion of the iconic and world-famous Metro system.
“Local rail brings huge economic and social benefits to the communities it reaches today but we need to extend those benefits into new areas.
“To do that, it is essential we secure funding for a new fleet of Metro trains, acting as a catalyst for the expansion of local rail and better integration across North East England.”
The strategy raises the possibility of putting towns including Ashington, Peterlee, and Washington back on the railway map. It also includes the replacement of old meteo fleets, with new models planned to be introduced in the early 2020s.
Discussions are on-going between Newcastle transport authority Nexus and the government about funding routes, with plans to submit a detailed business case before the end of this year. Nexus owns and manages the metro and plans to invest £350m by 2021.
NECA's transport managing director Tobyn Hughes said: “We believe some existing and disused local rail corridors can be combined with Metro to create a single network at a lower cost than new-build railways.
“By fusing local rail and Metro together we can create something new and better than the sum of those two parts.”
Image: NECA’s new strategy identifies a network of disused or under-used rail routes across Northumberland, Durham and Tyne. Photo: © Copyright NECA.