Sunderland's leader has vowed to ‘deliver a train station that the city and its residents deserve’, after revealing that a phased programme to transform it is set to move forward within weeks.
Councillor Graeme Miller, leader of Sunderland City Council, said that the local authority was working with partners to ‘expedite design work on the southern entrance of the station’, in a move that he believes will ‘inject pace and urgency into the city’s bid to fully revamp both its concourses and platforms’.
Cllr Miller confirmed to Full Council just a week ago that more than £26m had been secured to transform the southern entrance to the station. The plans, he says, ‘will push Sunderland station higher on the agenda of key stakeholders and deliver a station we can all be proud of’.
The leader said the council expected to be able to release more detailed designs within weeks, and that he was confident that ‘the same civic leadership that led to Legal & General’s £100m investment in Sunderland would also bring the support needed to transform the entire train station’.
He said: “We have a one-station vision for Sunderland – a plan to transform the northern and southern entrances, and to get the support we need to deliver a four platform, four track station that will match the ambition we have in Sunderland and provide a fitting arrival point to a city centre that will be reinvigorated, with investment now pouring in.
“We will do whatever it takes to deliver the station this city deserves, and residents can expect to see this process of transformation kick off within weeks. In the longer term, this will include a more significant scheme of work to the northern entrance, delivering an impressive arrival point in the Central Business District of Riverside Sunderland. This new northern entrance will sit in a new public square and will be framed by the beautiful Elephant Tearooms and Mackie’s Corner that are springing back to life.”
As well as improvements to the southern entrance, the first phase of plans will also see the development of a multi-storey car park at Holmeside to support the station and wider city centre redevelopment
Platform level improvements that the leader recognises as being ‘sorely needed’ will follow, led by the council, with reconfiguration of the platform-level and rail tracks requiring investment from government. It is hoped this will also fit with the wider regional aspiration to reconnect former rail lines to Sunderland’s central station, including the Leamside line.
Councillor Miller believes that, by delivering an ambitious programme of improvements to the southern entrance that are well-supported by partners, the city can strongly make its case for enhancements at a track level, to provide Sunderland with ‘a station befitting of our ambition as a city’.
Cllr Miller, who was speaking ahead of a Cabinet meeting in which it is expected that the council will sign off plans to quickly advance designs for the southern entrance, added: “We’re looking forward to sharing more details on our plans, along with our partners, who all share our absolute commitment to this project. There have been false dawns, but when work commences on the first phase of work on the station, we will all see that this is not another. This is a turning point for our station, and we will make it happen for the people of this city.”
The plans for the Train Station follow a stream of positive developments in the city centre. Proposals for a new Eye Hospital on Riverside Sunderland were revealed today, and follow the approval of a planning application that will see Legal & General and Landid move ahead with two new office spaces on Riverside Sunderland. City Hall is little over six months from completion, and just over the road, the Auditorium is also in the final phases of construction. A new hotel is rising from the ground at Keel Square, a new Culture House will take shape directly opposite and the ground is being prepared for investment at the former Crowtree site. Work is also expected to get started on the first tranche of 1,000 new homes on the city’s riverside, and a new pedestrian bridge will link both sides of the river.
“We’re absolutely focused on delivering our vision, to create a dynamic smart city with a city centre that is an economic motor. Our station is a key part of that vision and we will deliver it,” said Cllr Miller.
To stay up to date with the latest developments coming out of Riverside Sunderland, visit www.riversidesunderland.co.uk or follow @riversidesund on social media.