Work has started on the construction of an £8.4m Nexus Learning Centre in South Shields town centre.
Nexus, the public body which owns and manages the Tyne and Wear Metro, is building a bespoke facility to deliver a wide range of rail infrastructure and operations training.
It will also provide training for apprentices, front line leadership and management development, ensuring that all of its 1,000 plus workforce will benefit from the new facility, which is due to open in the summer of 2019.
The development is being funded through a £7m grant from the Government’s Local Growth Fund Deal through the North East Local Enterprise Partnership and a £1.4m contribution by Nexus.
The new facility will include a 70 metre stretch of dual track for Nexus to carry out rail infrastructure training, including track, track points, signalling and overhead line.
The new three-storey training centre itself will house a new computerised Metro driver training simulator, in preparation for the delivery of new Metrocars from 2021. It will also allow engineering staff to learn how to maintain the new trains, and for Nexus to safely and securely stable Metro trains overnight in South Shields, allowing for an earlier start of services and later evening services from South Shields when the new train fleet is brought into service.
Managing Director of Nexus, Tobyn Hughes, said: “I’m delighted that work is now starting on the construction of our £8.4m Learning Centre in South Shields.
“This facility will transform the quality of the training that we provide to the Nexus workforce and industry partners, ensuring we keep Metro part of everyday life for the 100,000 people who use the service every day. It will also be the place where our diverse workforce will go to develop themselves professionally, and to work on strategies to improve what we do and how we do it.
“The site dovetails with the ongoing regeneration of South Shields town centre, which includes an entirely new Metro and bus interchange. Our new learning centre will complement this redevelopment and help to bring new opportunities to the area.”
Councillor Iain Malcolm, Leader of South Tyneside Council, said: “This is a real milestone and I’m very pleased to be here today.
“This training centre will complement the new transport interchange and will bring huge benefits to the town, including apprenticeships for our young people.
“Nexus’ decision to locate their training centre in South Shields is further evidence of the rising confidence in the town centre as a place to do business and commitment to this part of the region.”
Chris Scoffield, Managing Director of Galliford Try's Rail and Aviation business: “The design and preparatory phases of the project have gone well and, with the site now cleared, we're looking forward to making a start on construction as part of a strong project team.”
The centre will have a mocked up Metro station complete with a full length platform, ticket gates, PA system, CCTV and Help Points.
It will be built within the existing Metro sidings between Mile End Road and Salem Street in South Shields, on the site of the town’s original railway station, which was closed when the Metro line was built in the early 1980s.
Work on the new building is set for completion in the spring of 2019.
There will be space at the new training centre to stable a small number of Metro trains and maintain them outside of the main fleet depot in Newcastle. This will allow Nexus to safely and securely stable Metro trains overnight in South Shields, allowing for an earlier start of services and later evening services to South Shields when the new Metro train fleet is brought into service.
Other facilities will include classrooms, computer suite, offices, meeting rooms, a staff canteen and breakout area, store rooms, a conference room for 50 people and a train driver simulator.
The new training centre is to be built by the construction firm GallifordTry.
Stephen George + Partners, one of the UK’s leading architectural practices, have designed the new training centre.