Bridget Phillipson Labour Member of Parliament for Houghton and Sunderland South
Our region is home to some incredible heritage – from the stunning Penshaw Monument, to the beautiful Victoria Viaduct, running from my constituency, over the River Wear into Washington.
Those with longer memories will remember the days when trains passed over the viaduct along the Leamside Line, a rail corridor connecting Newcastle and Durham. It has been out of use since the early 1990s, by which time it was used for freight.
Today the line offers huge potential for improving rail travel in the north east – and I’ve long argued that it should be re-opened.
Areas like mine have gone without rail links for far too long. Re-opening the Leamside Line would create good local jobs, improve our environment, and connect us to rail services right across the country.
We can only make this a reality if government is on our side – which is the case I made in a recent debate on transport in the House of Commons.
I’ve asked the Rail Minister to come to our area – an invitation which I’m glad to say has since been accepted.
I look forward to welcoming him to Sunderland so he can see first-hand the potential that could be unleashed by investing in local rail.
While I do welcome extra rail funding, I am worried it goes nowhere near far enough in providing the scale of investment needed.
Projects like this require significant long-term funding and commitment. I’ll do everything I can to make sure we get this by working with local politicians and Nexus to bid for investment.
But there are steps ministers could be taking right now, like giving us the power to fix our broken bus network.
I know how frustrated local people are with the state of our buses, from overpriced fares to routes being cancelled with scant notice.
We should be able to have more of a say over how buses are run, rather than simply chucking more taxpayers’ money at the same flawed system.
That’s why government should give us the powers to franchise bus services. This means we could finally introduce a fair, transparent and integrated smart-ticketing system – creating a bus network that puts passengers before shareholder profits.
Our area has amazing potential, but we have been let down far too long when it comes to transport.
I know we can turn this around, but only if we have a government willing to give us the powers and investment we need.
Bridget’s article was first published in the Sunderland Echo