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SUNDERLAND CITY COUNCIL: Rail shake-up welcomed

SUNDERLAND CITY COUNCIL: Rail shake-up welcomed

Image: LDRS

A major shake-up of the UK’s railway network could pave the way for upgrades across Wearside, including Metro extensions and improvements at Sunderland Railway Station.

Ministers have promised a planned new organisation to manage ticket prices, timetables and tracks will do away with ‘years of fragmentation, confusion and over-complication’.

And the move has been welcomed by city leaders, who predicted it could usher in a wave of transport investment in the North East.

“We want to see increased investment in all our city’s public transport links and investment in improving connectivity across the wider northern region,” said Graeme Miller, leader of Sunderland City Council.

“In Sunderland, this includes a major upgrade to the Durham Coast rail line, continuing to progress the new-look to Sunderland Central Railway Station, restoring Washington to the rail network, and upgrades to our Metro links, and our bus services.

“It’s well-documented and well-proven, that investing in transport brings social and economic benefits and this includes public transport offering more sustainable and carbon neutral options.”

Plans for a new state-owned body, to be known as Great British Railways (GBR), to take responsibility for much of the rail network were revealed in the Williams-Shapps Plan for Rail, released earlier this month (May).

A key promise has been for a ‘ticketing revolution’, promising more digital and smartphone options, as well as flexible season tickets and easier compensation for delays.

However, earlier this year (February 2021) ministers confirmed they were pulling the plug on plans by Transport for the North (TfN) to develop a similar scheme.

Tim Wood, TfN’s interim chief executive, said the new initiative must not become another ‘missed opportunity’ to improve connectivity and services across England.

This was backed by Cllr Miller, who called for more ‘regional and local decision-making’ to ensure the right projects are approved.

Following the unveiling of the report, Transport Secretary Grant Schapps said: “Our railways were born and built to serve this country, to forge stronger connections between our communities and provide people with an affordable, reliable and rapid service.

“Years of fragmentation, confusion and over-complication have seen that vision fade and passengers failed.

“That complicated and broken system ends today.”

Words: James Harrison, Local Democracy Reporter


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