Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin was in the Port of Sunderland today (5 February 2015) to see its rail line being used for the first time in more than 2 decades.
Network Rail has spent £600,000 to reinstate the former rail line into the port, which will boost its freight operations by allowing cargo to be transported onwards by rail.
Patrick McLoughlin said:
As part of the government’s long term economic plan, we are investing record amounts in improving road and rail connections so that ports like Sunderland can realise their full potential and contribute to regional growth.
The reconnection of the port’s rail link will boost its import and export capabilities significantly. I am proud to see this historic port being put firmly on the map again for freight and maritime projects and gearing up for more business.
The Transport Secretary was visiting the Port of Sunderland as part of a 3 day trip to meet northern leaders to discuss how transport can drive forward the creation of a northern powerhouse.
The Port of Sunderland already handles more than 700,000 tonnes of cargo each year. The reinstated line will allow up to 5 trains a day to operate into and out of the port, connecting it to the East Coast mainline, and from there to the wider rail network and mainland Europe via the Channel Tunnel.
During his visit Mr McLoughlin saw a trial run of a Class 66 locomotive on its newly connected rail line organised by rail freight haulier DB Schenker and Network Rail.
Work is about to be completed and the rail line will soon be used for commercial operations, increasing the port’s capability to manage cargo handling projects.
Port director Matthew Hunt said:
It’s fantastic to once again have rail connections at Port of Sunderland. We have always enjoyed great access to open sea, and the port is well placed in terms of its links to major roads and airports.
However, for more than 20 years, Port of Sunderland has not seen any rail traffic coming into its heart. To have lines connected into the port is a huge step forward for us and it really was an important moment for us to see the lines in use once again. It was great to share that with the Transport Secretary too.
The port is also set to benefit from work on the third Wear crossing in 2015. As a strategic transport corridor, the new bridge will better connect the port to trunk roads like the A19 and A1, ensuring that access is as straightforward as possible.