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Tyne & Wear Sunderland extension go-ahead

Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott today announced the go ahead for the Tyne & Wear Metro extension from Newcastle on Tyne to Sunderland. The Government will provide funding of GBP 35 million which will trigger a further GBP 15 million of European Union Funding. It is expected that contracts will be signed today and tomorrow ready for a start of construction early in the new year. Completion is expected by the end of 2001 with operation starting early 2002.

The extension is largely on Railtrack track and is the first true joint running venture in the UK between heavy and light rail systems.

The announcement came along with the announcement of a ten-year GBP 80 Billion investment plan to transform Britain's transport systems for which he has asked Minister for Transport Lord Macdonald to develop the detailed plan, working in partnership with key players from the public and private sectors as well as central and local government. Lord Macdonald will report to the Deputy Prime Minister by the middle of next year with a firm timetable for action and an agreed finance package. Mr. Prescott said "In our towns and cities, we will see more light-rail systems, giving people a modern, attractive alternative to the car. We will also deliver high-quality bus networks, fully integrated with road and rail, with satellite tracking systems to deliver real-time passenger information.

"And across the nation, we will put in place a one-stop-shop telephone enquiry service. This will provide information for fully-integrated journeys, backed up with single ticket, covering all modes of travel."

All in all there now seems to be a welcome move away from the belief that the required improvements in urban transit can all be achieved with buses.

13 December 1999

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