(This article was written in 2008 and is historical material)
The men and women who keep Metro running are unsung heroes for Nexus, and without their dedication and commitment the system just wouldn’t run.
Staff work around the clock, through all weather to keep the Metro on track. From the people who keep the trains clean to the controllers who ensure their safe operation, everyone has a key role to play, and everyone takes pride in their work.
The Metro operation is based at three sites all in the South Gosforth area of Newcastle – The Metro Train Depot, the Control Centre and the Administrative Offices – and all three facilities share an equal importance. The Metro Train Depot is where Nexus maintains its trains, the Control Centre is the nerve centre, where daily Metro operations are co-ordinated from, and the Metro Offices is the base for infrastructure staff who maintain Metro property including stations, signals, track and the overhead line. Operating a railway that covers thousands of track miles, carrying 133,000 passengers every day, requires much hard work, with safety the top priority at all times.
At the Metro Depot there are 114 staff including engineers, fitters, painters and cleaners. The main function of the depot is to ensure the operation, maintenance and cleanliness of Metro 90-strong fleet, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Many of the 600 routine maintenance activities on Metro are safety critical and are under the constant scrutiny of the Railway Inspectorate.
Russell Summers is the Head of Maintenance Management at the Metro Depot.
He said: “We have to put out 80 Metrocars into service every day and the units are ding more kilometres than ever since we opened the Sunderland section of the line. The good thing from our point of view is that we are extremely consistent in our work and keep the fleet in tip top condition. We have to make sure the trains are safe and reliable and that’s out top priority before they are allowed to be taken on the system. The reason we are so successful is because the team works. The lads take great pride in working on these trains and have played their part in making Metro one of the most reliable railway networks in the country.”
Staff at the Metro Depot take an obvious amount of pride in their work and believe the Metro fleet has stood the test time, some 26 years on from when they first started carrying passengers.
Michael Donnelly, 57, of Burnopfield, has worked a Fitter at Metro for 16 years.
He said: “It’s my job to maintain the trains’ wheels and gear boxes. I have to machine the wheels back into their profile to ensure they fit correctly on to the rails. I do enjoy my work and I find it rewarding when you see services running smoothly and on time because I know I’ve played a part in that.”
Malcolm Allen, 43, of Prudhoe, is a Depotman. His job is to shunt the trains when they are inside the depot he also has a safety critical role, with responsibility for the upkeep of the trains’ brakes.
He said: “I have to strip down the brake units to ensure they are kept in good working order. It’s an important job and one that I find rewarding.”
Paul Thompson, 53, of Gateshead, is a Mechanical Fitter.
He said: “I have a wide variety of roles to ensure the trains that leave the depot are fit for purpose. It’s hard work but we have a good team and we all play our part.”
The Metro Control Centre is where the system’s £8.5m CCTV network is controlled and monitored. It also the hub where all rains on the system are kept in check to ensure services are running smoothly and safely. The Control Room is where all system-wide public address announcements are made and where contingency measures are put into place when there are periods of disruption. Also based at the centre are Metro’s 160 drivers and the Metro Revenue Protection staff, who inspect tickets on the system to crackdown on fare evasion.
Just a five minute walk away, at the Metro Offices, the staff who clean graffiti are based along with staff who repair Metro bridges, CCTV cameras, escalators and station lighting.
There are 248 ticket machines on the Metro network and the Automatic Fare Collection Department (AFC) maintain them on a rolling basis.
Phil Hunter, 45, of South Shields, works in this section and realises his is a key role in keeping the Metro going.
He said: “Some of the ticket machines are 30 years-old so we often get problems with them and go out in all kinds of weather to do running repairs. We must keep them in good working order for passengers at all times. Although quite often it’s people who are responsible for breaking the machines, with bent coins and McDonald’s straws causing the biggest problems as they create a jam in the coin slot. The ticket machines have stood the test of time but I think we are getting nearer to the time when they need replacing, for the benefit of passengers, who should be able to sue cash cards and bank notes in the new machines.”