A new temporary depot which has been built to welcome the Tyne and Wear Metro’s new £362m train fleet has officially become operational.
The Howdon site in North Tyneside will be used to on-track the new Metro trains from 2022, and for maintenance of the current rolling stock while the main Gosforth depot in Newcastle is completely rebuilt.
Nexus, the public body which owns and manages Metro, said it was another step in the process of getting new Metro trains – which will transform the customer experience when they start entering service.
Metro Development Director, Neil Blagburn, said: “We now have a dedicated facility to welcome the new Metro trains from 2022. Howdon is also a vital satellite depot for up to a quarter of the current fleet while we build the new main depot at Gosforth.
“It’s a small but important step towards getting the new Metro trains. When they roll off the production line in Switzerland they will be transported here by rail and Howdon will be the point where they are delivered on to our network before testing and training gets underway.
“We are investing £70m on a totally new main depot at Gosforth. That reconstruction process starts in earnest next year, so we need Howdon to help us with that transitioning process.
“It’s a huge amount of investment in Metro and it gives it a really bright future which promises to be transformational for our customers and our workforce.”
Rob Baxter, managing director of Stadler Rail Service UK, added: “The completion of Howdon depot takes us one step closer along the journey to deliver new trains in a couple of years’ time.
“Despite the challenges that 2020 has brought, we have achieved a lot this year, including signing the contract with Nexus, transferring all the depot staff to our business, and starting work to re-build Gosforth depot.
“With this project now well underway, we look forward to continued working with Nexus and our local stakeholders and suppliers in 2021 and beyond.”
Howdon depot, which has been built from scratch in just over a year, will be used for the cleaning and preparation of up to a quarter of the existing Metro fleet during a four-year transition to the new £70m depot at Gosforth.
Work on the Gosforth depot has commenced and will start to ramp up in 2021.
The new Metro trains will be delivered through Howdon when the new trains are transported to the UK by rail from Switzerland via the Channel Tunnel – a process that is expected to start in 2022.
Howdon development has been funded as part of the Metro fleet replacement programme.
The transition to the new Gosforth depot will take four years, making the requirement for a satellite depot essential to ensure that Metro operations can continue.
A total of 11 new lines, totalling 1.5km, have gone in at Howdon, along with 13 new track junctions and 1,000 sleepers.
Acquiring money from the Transforming Cities Fund to deliver the Metro Flow project will also mean that this facility is likely to play an important role in future Metro operations.
Nexus secured Government grant funding of £337m towards the projected £362m cost of designing and building a new train fleet and depot. This and the ongoing maintenance of the fleet over 35 years makes the total investment about £700m.
Stadler, the Swiss train builder, will build, deliver and maintain the new Metro fleet.
Buckingham Group Contracting Ltd built the temporary Howdon Metro depot working in collaboration with Nexus.