Ambitious plans have been drawn up to expand the railway and Metro to service-starved towns and replace ageing trains.
The project could see new Metro or rail links to Newcastle’s West End, the Metrocentre, south east Northumberland, Sunderland’s south, and direct trains between South Shields and Wearside.
Trains may finally roll through Blyth, Ashington and Bedlington again, while North Tyneside’s Cobalt and Silverlink areas could get a Metro service.
A mock up of a potential Metro design – the final look will depend on the manufacturer
Proposals would also see the current fleet of Metro trains, which have been in operation since the 1970s, replaced with state-of-the-art models from the 2020s at a cost of up to £550m.
The plans are part of the Metro and Local Rail Strategy – developed with Nexus and the North East Combined Authority (NECA) – which sets out its vision for a joined-up rail and Metro network similar to London’s.
Routes could transfer between local rail and Metro as part of the plans but the aim is for the entire service to be tied together as one network.Expansion plans include:
Newcastle’s West End
A rail extension out of Central Station along the original Newcastle to Carlisle line could head along Scotswood Road to serve Newcastle’s west, while a bridge could then connect the city to the Metrocentre. This would be integrated with the Metro system. Building developments in Gallowgate have greatly reduced any chance of extending the Metro west from St James’ Park.
South east Northumberland
A route north of Northumberland Park would see a rail service restored to Ashington, Bedlington and Blyth, by upgrading a freight only line which terminates at Woodhorn, but could be extended to Newbiggin-by-the-Sea. It passes through Seaton Delaval and Seghill.
NECA says the route would connect with the Metro system at Northumberland Park, and would also join the East Coast Mainline five miles north of Newcastle, leading to Central Station and the possibility of direct services from south east Northumberland to the Metrocentre and Hexham.Team Valley
Opening up the Bensham curve would bring passenger services down an existing freight only line to the east of Team Valley. This creates a rail service for Team Valley’s 20,000 employees, while the line could feasibly be extended south to Birtley and Chester-le-Street. There is also potential for an A1 park and ride scheme.
The south east Northumberland route could connect with the Metrocentre via Central Station, while Nexus and NECA also believe it is possible to use the line which runs through Gateshead to create routes to South Tyneside and Sunderland. The Metrocentre could also be added to the Team Valley and A1 park and ride proposal.
A direct service between Newcastle Airport and North Tyneside could be introduced by expanding the “depot avoiding line” at South Gosforth. It would mean passengers would no longer have to change there. South east Northumberland could also potentially see a direct link to the airport, while the green line could extend to Ponteland.Sunderland
Electrifying the Metro line south of Sunderland would bring a service to Ryhope, Seaham, Horden and Peterlee.
It could also be possible to create a new route connecting Doxford Park to Sunderland city centre by converting the former Hetton Colliery railway.
South Shields and Sunderland could be directly connected by linking a freight track which runs between the yellow line and green line. It is also be possible to directly connect South Shields and Washington via Brockley Whins. Converting a freight only line alongside the existing Metro track would allow more trains to run between Jarrow and Pelaw.
A circular Metro-like service could cover Sunderland and Washington if old rail lines are given a new lease of life. Extending the track from South Hylton to Penshaw, Washington, Pelaw and then east back to Sunderland via East Boldon would create the Wearside Loop.
Cobalt and Silverlink
Renovating a disused freight line could join Cobalt and Silverlink to the Metro’s coast loop and possibly Northumberland, while an “inner loop” could connect Cobalt with Wallsend and Four Lane Ends.