Metro Flow

The Metro Flow project saw an existing freight line upgraded and electrified in South Tyneside, making it capable of carrying Metro services. This has the potential to boost the capacity by up to 24,000 extra passenger journeys every day.

Three sections of single track totalling five kilometres were dualled between Pelaw and Bede Metro stations.

The Metro line between Pelaw and South Shields was closed, in both directions, from 12 September - 3 December 2022.  

Benefits of the Metro Flow project include:

•    The potential to increase the frequency of Metro trains

•    The potential to boost the capacity by up to 24,000 extra passenger journeys every day

•    Improve reliability and allow quicker recovery from major disruptions

•    Better support for major events including the Great North Run, Sunderland Airshow, stadium concerts, and major sporting events

•    Unlock the door to the expansion of the Metro system

There are three single-track sections on the Metro network, where trains must use the same line in both directions.

The sections of line are located between Pelaw and Hebburn (800 metres), Hebburn and Jarrow (1.4km) and Jarrow and Bede (600 metres).

These pinch points are the only remaining sections of the Metro network that is like this and it is something that is highly unusual for a mass transit system.

Single track sections effectively creates a traffic light problem - with drivers having to wait for the green light each time they make a journey along these sections of single track.

Because this is already one of the busiest rail networks in the UK anything more than an extra few seconds can cause knock-on delays right across the Metro network.

With so little slack in the system it also makes it difficult for Metro to expand with little headroom in timetables to add additional stops and new routes.

By converting the three outstanding sections to dual tracks Nexus solved this problem.


Frequently asked questions

Metro Flow means more frequent trains, more space for passengers and smoother and shorter journey times.

Metro had some small areas of single-track South of the Tyne (around Pelaw, Bede, Hebburn and Jarrow) which hindered the movement of trains around the system.  These ‘single track’ sections make it very difficult to plan the expansion of Metro as trains must be timetabled precisely to meet available slots at either end, with little headroom for additional stops or to integrate new routes.

Metro Flow explained

The Metro Flow Project resolved this issue by converting an under-used national freight line, owned by Network Rail, to take Metro trains as well.  Nexus converted the line through installation of overhead power supplies and appropriate signalling which allow Metro and the Freight traffic to share the track, as happens now between Pelaw and Sunderland. 

The project was designed to realise the full potential of Metro through more frequent and reliable services, with more capacity to meet the needs of the region’s growing economy so improving accessibility, driving productivity and enhancing our environment.  It will provide: 

  • The potential to increase the frequency of Metro trains
  • The potential to boost the capacity by up to 24,000 extra passenger journeys every day
  • Improved resilience: solving the traffic light problem and improved performance.
  • Improved integration: shorter waiting and journey times for those interchanging with Metro.
  • The potential to deliver £350 million of economic benefits across the North East.
  • The potential to remove up to 3 million car kms per year from the road, improving air quality by reducing CO2 emissions by up to 500,000kg and NO2 by up to 40,000kg per year and generating wider health benefits.
  • Provide the foundation for future growth.

The scheme will unlock three key pinch points on the current network where trains now use the same line in both directions – with drivers waiting for a green light like motorists facing temporary roadworks on every trip. (Anything more than a few seconds’ additional wait for an oncoming train at each section can have a knock-on impact leading to delays elsewhere).

An increase in the frequency of Metro trains will provide additional capacity and support more passenger journeys, making travel by Metro a more attractive choice for commuters and leisure users.

Yes, we have a new fleet on the way and we originally ordered 42 ‘full length’ new vehicles (equivalent to 84 of our existing 90 Metro cars). 

We have ordered a further 4 trains from Stadler, our contractor for the manufacture of our new fleet.

Yes.  The dualling of single track removed pinch points in the network.  This will complement the new fleet resulting in a much more reliable service for our customers.

Yes - The improved integration of services means shorter waiting and journey times for those interchanging with Metro.

To allow two-way traffic to flow and ease the pinch-points we removed and replaced some of the heavy rail.  We fitted overhead lines onto the Network Rail sections which Metro will to use. Adjustments to track height were required in some areas to accommodate the overhead lines and freight train under the existing bridges. 

This involved removal and replacement of ballast and track to a reduced level at the overbridge locations and reduction in platform levels at Hebburn and Jarrow Metro stations

The works adopted the adjacent Network Rail freight line to remove the three remaining sections of single track on the Metro network at Bill Quay, between Hebburn and Jarrow Metro stations and from Jarrow to the A19 overbridge crossing.

No. However, we made some adjustments to the platform height at Jarrow and Hebburn stations to accommodate the freight trains.


Buckingham Group Construction Ltd were appointed to carry out the works.

There was a 12-week closure of the line between Pelaw and South Shields from 12 September - 3 December 2022 along with two weekend closures. 

This method of delivery was preferred to multiple weekend closures over a 1-2 year period to complete the work, which would extend the disrupted period and significantly increase costs.


Nexus undertook detailed environmental surveys of the area and did not identify any major areas of impact for local residents and the surrounding habitats.  None the less, the chosen contractor was required to provide an Environmental Management Plan for the Project showing how it will comply with relevant environmental legislation and codes of practice.

The  works took approximately 12 months to deliver between February 2022 and February 2023.  Most of the work was undertaken during a 12-week line closure between 12 September and 3 December 2022. No trains ran on the South Shields line from Pelaw during these 12 weeks. 

© 2024 Nexus Tyne and Wear - Public Transport and Local Information.