The official launch has taken place of a £100m scheme to upgrade and electrify an existing freight line in South Tyneside.
The ‘Metro Flow’ project will increase service frequency, reduce journey times, and improve reliability on the Tyne and Wear Metro to boost its capacity for an extra 24,000 customer journeys every day.
The official start of works on site was marked by Nexus, the public body that owns and manages Tyne and Wear Metro, joining local council leaders and contractor Buckingham Group Contracting Ltd to cut the first piece of turf. The scheme will cost a total of £103m, of which Nexus has secured £95m from the Government’s Transforming Cities Fund.
There are currently three single-line sections of track on the Metro network, where trains must use the same line in both directions. These are between Pelaw and Hebburn (800 metres), Hebburn and Jarrow (1.4km), and Jarrow and Bede (600 metres). The work will convert these sections of the single track into double lines, with the most intensive period of track works taking place between September and December when the line will be closed for 12 weeks.
Benefits of the Metro Flow project include:
- increasing the frequency of Metro trains outside the central areas to one every 10 minutes;
- delivering the capacity for an extra 24,000 passengers a day;
- improving reliability and allowing quicker recovery from major disruptions;
- providing better support for major events including the Great North Run, Sunderland International Airshow, stadium concerts, and major sporting events;
Cllr Tracey Dixon, Leader of South Tyneside Council, said: “We’re absolutely delighted to see this much-anticipated project get underway.
“Metro Flow will deliver huge benefits for South Tyneside and for the wider region; it will increase capacity, frequency, and efficiency on the system. A safe, reliable, and efficient public transport network is vital to boost economic growth and to link our residents and businesses to job, education, and social opportunities.
“It will also promote sustainable transport and support our move towards a cleaner, greener borough.”
Cllr Martin Gannon, Chair of the North East Joint Transport Committee, said: “I’m thrilled to see the Metro Flow project get underway – this is great news for passengers who will experience greatly improved reliability and reduced journey times upon completion.
“This project will be truly transformational for local people, boosting capacity for an extra 24,00 customers every day. The increase helps us to deliver on our green ambitions as outlined in the North East Transport Plan, providing appealing, sustainable transport choices for local people. Thanks to funding from the region’s Transforming Cities Fund, this project will help to welcome many new passengers to our public transport network.”
Chief Operating Officer at Nexus, Martin Kearney, said: “The Metro Flow project is going to be transformative for the Tyne and Wear Metro. It’s great to be able to mark the official start on site for these extensive track dualling works.
“When the project is completed at the end of the year, the dualled track will allow us to increase the frequency of Metro services system-wide from twelve minutes to ten minutes outside of the central areas. This means more regular services, and faster journey times for our customers.
“This also gives us the scope to examine future opportunities to expand the network to other areas that are currently not served by Metro.”
Rob Harwood; Construction Director for Buckingham, said: “Buckingham was delighted last year to be awarded the exciting and challenging Metro Flow project. Bringing forward the experience from working successfully with Nexus on the Howdon depot project, we are confident it will be a great success.
“The key challenge lies in achieving the programme, which has no room to change as everything has to be ready for a blockade (or full closure of the line), that cannot be moved, straight after the Great North Run in September 2022. We then have three months to undertake the main construction works. September 12 to December 3.
“The project team is now being assembled and is based in temporary site offices. I’m pleased to say the team embraces many local people within it, further benefitting the local community.
“Lastly, and equally importantly, we have, with Nexus, started work within the community including engaging with local schools Jarrow School and Bill Quay Primary.”
Nexus and Buckingham Group Contracting Ltd. will provide further information at two public drop-in sessions at Pelaw Metro station on Wednesday, 2nd February from 9 am to 11 am and from 4 pm to 6 pm.