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November 11, 2008 11:24 AM

North East Liberal Democrats have welcomed the party's commitment to reopening a local railway line.

The Leamside Line between Ferryhill and Tyneside would be re-opened as a way of boosting capacity on the East Coast Main Line.

It would also help provide alternative commuter services to cut congestion on the A1.

The Liberal Democrats have proposed major reform of the current short rail franchise system to grant 30 year franchises with five year service quality checks.

In return, train companies would be required to deliver major improvements to their network including re-opening railway lines closed under Beeching.

In addition to the Leamside route, upgrading of the Stillington to Ferryhill route is proposed, which would enable faster services between Tyneside and Teesside.

The party would prioritise high quality rail services ahead of domestic air services, and would institute a new regime of franchises of up to 30 years where good performance allows, enabling companies to make greater long-term investment in rolling stock and infrastructure improvements.

Councillor Greg Stone, Parliamentary spokesman for Newcastle East, said "There have long been calls for the Leamside to be reopened, and as a member of the Tyne & Wear Passenger Transport Authority I welcome the Lib Dem commitment to restore the Leamside service.

"Reopening it would create opportunities for new stations for Washington and would potentially benefit the whole of Tyneside by providing rail alternatives to more road congestion.

"In addition it would enable greater utilisation of the main Newcastle-Durham route by mainline and commuter services by creating an alternative route for freight traffic.

"I am also hopeful that the Lib Dem policy will pave the way for restoration of the Newcastle to Ashington and Blyth line, which would create similar opportunities for north Tyneside and south east Northumberland.

"The Liberal Democrats are the only party currently championing public transport as a political issue, and only the Lib Dems are prioritising investment in transport infrastructure."

The list of lines included in the Lib Dem announcement is not intended to be exhaustive and Ashington - Blyth would fit the criteria for reinstatement.