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There will be a Westminster Hall debate on the ‘Potential merits of reopening the Leamside Line’ on Tuesday 8 February 2022. The debate has been initiated by Sharon Hodgson MP.

This briefing contains background information, parliamentary and press material, as well as suggested further reading which Members may find useful when preparing for this debate.

 The closure of the Leamside Line

The Leamside Line is a 21-mile stretch of disused railway (map) running from Pelaw in Gateshead to Tursdale in County Durham.

Services were withdrawn from parts of the line in the 1940s. Then, in the 1960s, stations along the line, such as Washington, were among those closed across the country following Dr Richard Beeching’s (the then Chairman of the British Railways Board) report, Reshaping of British Railways, in 1963.

 According to Railfuture, an independent organisation which campaigns for better rail services, the Leamside Line was finally closed to passengers 1964, but was used to transport coal until it was mothballed by British Rail in 1991.

 The potential benefits of reopening the Leamside Line

Local MPs, councils and transport bodies, including Transport North-East and Transport for the North, are in favour of reopening the Leamside Line, due to the possibility it has to enhance connectivity not only locally but also regionally and nationally by addressing capacity constraints on the East Coast Main Line.

 For example, the disused line is part of plans to extend the reach of rail and metro services within the North East Transport Plan 2021-2035.  Transport for the North’s advice to Government included reopening the Leamside Line as part of its preferred option for Northern Powerhouse Rail.

There is a current petition to reopen the line, sponsored by Paul Howell MP. This followed another local petition by Sharon Hodgson MP, which was debated in Parliament in March 2021.

Government’s assessment of the case for the reopening the Leamside Line

Recent proposals to reopen the Leamside Line have, however, been unsuccessful at attaining funding from central government.

 The case for reopening the line has been considered as part of bids to the Restoring Your Railways Fund, a £500m programme to restore stations and lines closed under the Beeching Cuts of the 1960s, and the Integrated Rail Plan for the Midlands and the North.  

Due to the cost and value for money of the scheme, the Government has suggested that reopening the Leamside Line would be best considered through a future City Region Sustainable Transport Settlement.

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