Rail lines reopened at Port of Sunderland after 20 years

Rail lines reopened at Port of Sunderland after 20 years

The Secretary of State for Transport, Patrick McLoughlin MP, paid a visit to a North East port to witness its rail lines being used for the first time in more than two decades.

Mr McLoughlin was among those at the Port of Sunderland to see a locomotive run on its newly connected rail lines, as part of a trial run organised with DB Schenker Rail UK and Network Rail.  The lines will soon be used for commercial operations.

The use of the lines for a light engine trial followed work by Network Rail to reinstate the former line into the port during December and January.  The work is a boost to the import and export credentials of the port, which is at the heart of the North East coastline.

Port director Matthew Hunt identified that the trial with DB Schenker Rail UK, using its Class 66 locomotive, was a significant moment for the port, after 20 years without links to the national rail network.

He 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.

Mr McLoughlin added: “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.”

Neil McDonald, head of sales at DB Schenker Rail UK, said: “Britain’s ports are a vital link to overseas markets, but landing cargo in the port is not the end of the journey.  Excellent transport links from ports to cities are essential in order for shippers to reach their final customer, and rail ensures low carbon, low congestion transport.

The port, which already has a throughput of more than 700,000 tonnes of cargo each year, has seen almost half a mile of rail lines reconnected by Network Rail, providing a significant boost to its cargo handling capabilities.

As well as the rail connections, the port is set to be boosted still further when work begins on the third Wear crossing later this year.  Described 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.