The £30m refurbishment of the Tyne and Wear Metro’s train fleet has been successfully completed, five months ahead of schedule.
DB Regio Tyne and Wear, the light rail operator which runs the Metro on behalf of Nexus, has delivered the work as part of the Metro fleet’s ‘three-quarter life’ refurbishment project.
A total of 86 Metro carriages have been modernised over the last five years through the £389m Metro all change modernisation programme, a Government-funded scheme to modernise the system.
Nexus, which owns and manages Metro, commissioned DB Regio to undertake the work in 2010 when the Metro modernisation funding was given the green light.
The trains were stripped down to their frames and corroded bodywork was replaced, extending their service life by another ten years.
The trains have been brought up to the Government’s required standard on accessibility. Metro is the first train fleet in the UK to reach this standard.
New seating and lighting has been installed, along with a new carriage lay out to afford more space for wheelchair users.
The Metro trains have also got vibrant new colour scheme, with a sleek metallic grey and black finish, incorporating the iconic bright yellow brand livery of the Tyne and Wear Metro.
The train door control systems have been replaced and a new and improved door opening and closing sounder has been installed, to give passengers more warning and limit the number of people boarding the trains at the last minute and obstructing the doors.
A new call-for-aid system has also been installed to allow passengers to contact the driver in emergencies, such as a passenger being taken ill. There is also new lighting at each of the doorways on board to illuminate the door edge and help passengers get on and off at stations safely.
The work was initially carried out by Wabtec Rail at its engineering facility in Doncaster, South Yorkshire, and was completed by DB Regio at its South Gosforth depot in Newcastle.
Director of Rail and Infrastructure for Nexus, Raymond Johnstone, said: “The refurbishment of the Metro fleet is a vital part our £389m modernisation programme. This will extend the service life of Metro trains into the 2020s.
“The work has involved transporting each train by road to Doncaster, so it has been a complex project, but one that has been delivered ahead of schedule.
“The money has mainly been spent on stripping the carriages down and replacing the metal bodywork which has suffered from corrosion. We have also raised accessibility standards for passengers with disabilities, and have changed the carriage layouts to increase the amount of space.
“Our long term goal is to make a strong business case to Government for a brand new fleet of trains and that work is already underway.”
Cllr John Harrison, Chairman of the North East Combined Authority’s Tyne and Wear Transport Sub-Committee, said: “Our Metro system is an integral part of our transport infrastructure across Tyne and Wear and is a valuable regional asset. Metro is the busiest light railway system outside of London and it is vitally important for the area to have this modern and efficient transport network connecting our cities, towns and communities. This £30m refurbishment will significantly enhance the passenger experience and what Metro can offer, and I hope it encourages even more travellers to use the system.”
Louise Shaw, Director of Engineering at DB Regio, who has overseen the project through to completion, said: “The look and feel of the Metro cars are brighter, fresher and much nicer and this has had a direct impact and benefit for passengers.
“It’s been a real team effort with everyone from both DB Regio and Wabtec contributing to making things happen. We have worked tirelessly on this project to see it through to completion.
“From getting the cars ready to go to Doncaster, to maintaining those that arrived back at the depot, staff across the board have shown a commitment to doing the job well, and at times, going above and beyond the call of duty.
“Leading this project has been a rewarding challenge at an engineering level with the Metrocars being stripped down to their frames and built back up again.”
Louise added that she is thrilled the project has also helped launch the career of two young starters, Ben Chapman, 20 and Carlene Tindale, 29.
She said: “It’s great to see the young recruits coming on board and really showing an interest in railway engineering as a career. Ben has been working on the doors project and has done very well. He is with us for another couple of years and we hope he will continue to have a long career with us.
“Carlene has also been working on the doors project and is doing a great job. She’s likely to join the company permanently now.”
Carlene, from Pegswood in Northumberland, was in the Royal Air Force for 10 years before joining DB Regio as a Mechanical Technician. She has been with the company now for nearly two years.
She said: “During the last two years I’ve been working on the refurbishment project, integrating as part of the project team. I am pleased to have been chosen to work on such an important project as it has such a big impact to the company and the public alike.
“I would like to continue to expand my knowledge of rolling stock and also continue to play my part within the Learning and Development department.”
Metro has the fastest-growing passenger numbers outside of London with 38 million journeys completed every year.
During its 35-year life span, the fleet of Metrocars has undergone two significant refurbishments, to renew technical equipment, improve the passenger experience and extend its life to around 2025.