The response and reporting of it has completely underestimated its significance, focusing largely on a change in the wording of a page on the government’s website.
This page originally said that the Leamside line, which ran from Ferryhill Station in my constituency north to Tyneside, would be reopened with the new funds, although in fact these funds are enough to reopen the line, but they will now go to politicians in the North East – particularly the future mayor – to decide how to spend it.
The new mayor of Durham, Tyneside, Wearside and Northumberland could decide to use the money elsewhere, but that would be his decision – and I for one would be extremely disappointed if it was not spent on the line that is supported by all parties .
This additional funding has achieved exactly what I and Labor MPs have asked for: they have given the North East the money so that we can get on with things. That’s certainly what we want – more money allocated to us to decide how we spend it, and that was confirmed by Transport Minister Mark Harper in the House of Commons debate on Wednesday.
Unfortunately, there is no way the Labor Party can accept that a Tory government has done anything good, so their spinning machine was in overdrive – and that was reflected in the headlines in Thursday’s newspapers, even in The Northern Echo.
But with the money now in place, we are closer than ever to reopening the line.
But the good news doesn’t end there. The same announcement from the Prime Minister confirmed that Ferryhill station is now definitely operational.
I spent a large part of my childhood in Ferryhill and with the town now having a population of 10,000, I know that with these improved transport links the town will really prosper.
This is an exciting moment considering the freeport and other exciting initiatives such as the Tees Valley multi-modal hydrogen transport hub are now attracting thousands of jobs to Teesside. These have the potential to create 18,000 and 3,900 jobs respectively and the station offers the Ferryhill region a unique opportunity to directly connect with this.
In conjunction with the potential long-term re-opening of the Leamside Line, Ferryhill station will form part of a new Tyne-Tees link, allowing rail services to continue to Newcastle.
Improved rail connectivity will also encourage a shift from road to public transport, helping to reduce congestion and our environmental impact.
While you probably haven’t seen this on social media or in the newspaper, I truly believe this is great news for our region and, like all rail stories, is long overdue. It marks a new era in the history of our region’s transport infrastructure and I am honored to have played a part in securing this vital legacy for the future of our children.
Full speed ahead!
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