On Monday 21 June a Tyne and Wear Metrocar travelled through the North East streets by lorry – marking the start of a £20 million refurbishment for the entire Metro fleet.
The highly technical operation to move the 28-metre long, 40-tonne Metrocar in one piece was the first of many over the next five years, as the 90-strong fleet travel to Doncaster, where a specialist railway engineering firm will carry out the work.
The refurbishment, which will see passenger compartments and cabs completely rebuilt, forms part of the Metro: all change modernisation programme, worth up to £400 million over the next 11 years.
Nexus, which owns and manages the Tyne and Wear Metro, has ordered the work on the Metrocars, which have each clocked up more than two million kilometres service since entering service 30 years ago.
DB Regio Tyne and Wear (DBTW), which operates trains and stations on behalf of Nexus, is delivering the ‘three-quarter life’ refurbishment, which will be carried out by WabTec in Doncaster, a company which has carried out similar projects for London Underground trains.
Bernard Garner, Director General of Nexus said: “This operation marks the start of the very significant investment we shall be making in Metro over the next 11 years through the Metro: all change modernisation programme.
“The refurbishment is the most extensive our Metrocar fleet has received in its 30-year history and will give Metro’s 40 million passengers a year more comfortable ride.”
Richard McClean, Managing Director DB Regio Tyne and Wear, said: “Metro passengers will definitely enjoy the benefits of this refurbishment, with better seating, a completely new interior that will be bright, fresh and airy, plus improved facilities for disabled travellers.
“In all 90 Metrocars will be refurbished between now and early 2015, and we are excited at the prospect of seeing the first Metrocar to be refurbished.”
This is the first time a complete Metrocar has moved by road since 1975, when the first prototypes were delivered. A Metrocar was moved in two pieces by lorry to and from the Gateshead Garden Festival in 1990, but none has taken to the road since then.
A previous refurbishment programme was carried out at Metro’s Gosforth depot, however the greater scale of the work this time round led DBTW to choose a specialist external firm this time.
The first Metrocar to be chosen for refurbishment is 4041, named after the late Newcastle Councillor and MP Harry Cowans in honour of the work he did in the 1970s to get the Tyne and Wear Metro built.
Metrocar 4041 will be winched carefully onto a low-loader at Metro’s maintenance yard at Hylton Street, North Shields, on Monday 21 June.
The lorry will then make the journey through the streets of North Shields to the A19 and then the A1 to Doncaster.
It marks the first of 90 return journeys to be made by the entire fleet over the next five years.
The refurbishment programme is being managed by DBTW against rigorous timescales, while ensuring it has no impact on the day-to-day operation of Metro, which requires more than 80 of the fleet at peak times.
Details of the new external and internal livery of the Metrocar fleet are now being finalised and will be unveiled when the first train returns from Doncaster.