General Election 2019: New County Durham Tory MP to explore Tyne and Wear Metro extension
The new Conservative MP who seized ex Prime Minister Tony Blair’s former seat has promised support for “better public transport” – including the possibility of extending the Tyne and Wear Metro south into County Durham.
Paul Howell polled almost half the popular vote in Sedgefield to flip it to the Tories from Labour - the only party in the constituency to see its share of ballots fall on the night.
The result means Howell will be the only government MP representing an area which could benefit from an expansion of rail routes.
“It’s not something I know enough about at this stage,” he admitted when asked, “it’s not an agenda I’ve picked up enough on, but I’m very supportive of better public transport networks.
“Whether it’s extending the on-demand buses scheme [Teesside mayor] Ben Houchen has or getting better train services, it’s something I think is very important.”
He added: “Now it’s about trying to understand how we deliver a better position for the North through a Conservative government.”
The Tyne and Wear Metro currently runs through 10 parliamentary constituencies, all of which are represented by Labour MPs.
Previous plans have raised the prospect of extending the service down the coast to Seaham, in the Easington constituency, as well as along the former Leamside Line as far as Durham and possibly even as far as Ferryhill, in the Sedgefield constituency.
However, any extension would be dependent on local authorities responsible for the route securing government funding.
Regional leaders have said plans for a major new manufacturing park on Wearside could be the catalyst needed to add a “South Tyne and Wear Loop” to the network.
And it is hoped a new generation of trains due to enter service in 2021 capable of running on existing industrial rail lines will make it easier to add new stops.
Before his election to the House of Commons Mr Howell was also a councillor for Darlington Borough Council and Durham County Council, both of which are covered by his constituency.
He is expected to step down from the two councils although arrangements for this could take several weeks.