Seeing news today that the ancient rattling tin boxes that run on rails serving Teeside are to be replaced with investment in new rolling stock, I was reminded of an old idea for consolidating north-east infrastructure that I reckon should be part of our plans.
(Editorially updated 21 Mar 2016.)
Up north, Newcastle (NCL) is the most developed airport and I/we often use it for business and pleasure. Trouble is it’s not just north, it’s actually north of the Tyne, in the land of Picts. It’s a dreadful journey by public (rail) or private (car) transport from where we live close to, but south of the Tees. By rail one needs to get into Newcastle or Sunderland and then onto the NCL metro system, I don’t think there are any other worthwhile rail-metro connections. By road one has to use the congested two-lane A1 stretch around Gateshead metro-centre and get across the A1-Tyne bridge.
We are very close to Teeside airport (originally Middleton-St-George, now known as Durham-Tees), but apart from the (dying) oil industry Aberdeen-Stavanger services of Eastern Airways, the only regular service is KLM to Amsterdam-Schiphol. Which again, I use regularly – it’s quicker for me to get to most Netherlands cities than it is to get to London from Teeside, and Schiphol has good intercontinental connections too. Teeside airport is owned by Peel Airports, and would be defunct if not subsidised by local government money. Add to that Durham-Tees has a tiny rail halt on the Darlington-Middlesbrough-East-Cleveland and Thornaby-Stockton-Sunderland lines, a halt that is never used, thanks to the pitifully tiny air-traffic that could justify it.
South of us are Leeds-Bradford (and further, Manchester is a bigger operation) but also Doncaster-Robin-Hood (ex Finningly airfield). Peel Airports also own Doncaster and they seem to be successfully investing in development there – instead of Teeside.
So, the most developed northern airport is north of it’s northern-most city, and very badly connected to the rest of it. Between the Tees and Tyne is the Wear, and Sunderland had an airport too, though also struggling for scheduled paying traffic and no doubt remaining in existence thanks only to local government interest in Nissan’s success at Washington – not least because the airport no longer exists since it is the site of the Nissan operation? And notice that the UK’s new high-speed trains investments are coming to Hitachi at Newton-Aycliffe, in Co. Durham between the Tees and Wear.
Time for some joined-up thinking methinks?
Let’s bite the bullet and consolidate North-East air traffic at Sunderland. Convenient for all Tees, Wear and Tyne-siders. Let’s move the whole of the successful NCL operation there, let’s accept Durham-Tees is no longer viable, and let’s put investment into fast rail links to the consolidated airport from the Tees-Wear-Tyne rail networks. And maybe Nissan and Hitachi could help fund? Win-Win-Win.
Post Note :
As if to prove my point about Teeside airport rail halt.
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-35105105 only 8 people got on or off in the whole of 2013/14.