WASHINGTON and Sunderland West MP Sharon Hodgson has today launched a petition to reopen the Leamside Line and bring rail service back to Washington.
In a bid to bolster campaign efforts, the petition calls on the UK government to re-establish the railway service in full, bringing a central stop back to the town.
Since its closure in 1963, Washington has not been serviced by any passenger rail service and is the largest town in England without a rail link, despite its growing population of approximately 70,000.
And it’s an issue Ms Hodgson feels is a vital step in reconnecting the area to major transit.
She said: “The Government is considering opening part of the Leamside Line near Durham to ease the strain on the East Coast Main Line.
“It would be ludicrous to open part of the rail line, and for it to not reach this part of Wearside, missing the opportunity to bring rail back to Washington.
“I have campaigned to bring the Metro to Washington for over 15 years, highlighting the significant connectivity and economic benefits a rail link could bring, connecting Wearside and providing a rail link to County Durham, Gateshead and Newcastle.
“There is no doubting the transformational opportunities a rail link could bring, and now is the time to press the Government. I am therefore calling on my constituents and residents across Tyne and Wear to add their voice to this campaign by signing this petition to bring back rail to Washington.”
Usworth and Washington Stations (situated near Columbia and what is now Teal Farm) closed to passengers in 1963, and a similar fate befell Penshaw Station one year later.
Leamside was used for a short while during the late seventies as a diversion for the East Coast Main Line due to electrification of the line between Newcastle and Darlington, but by the turn of the century, the line had been mothballed entirely.
The land that the line once travelled still belongs to National Rail, however, leading to calls for te line to be reopened over the past two decades.
The East Coast Main Line linking Edinburgh to London has come under fire in recent years for required upgrades and refurbishment, as well as increased capacity between Northallerton and Newcastle. Both freight and passenger services, if reopened, could make up what has been dubbed the Wearside Loop and if the Leamside line reopens, rail service could be back in Washington.
Currently, however, the government is considering a less costly Leamside South option, which would allow the East Coast Main line to bypass Durham without reaching our town.
The petition will be collecting signatures across February, to be brought to Parliament in early Spring before the Government announces its Integrated Rail Plan, with investment set to begin in 2024.