The Tyne and Wear Metro is set to see an increase in its capacity after a contact was confirmed for a major upgrade of the route between Pelaw and Bede Stations.
The Tyne and Wear Metro is set to see an increase in its capacity after a contract was confirmed for a major upgrade of the route between Pelaw and Bede Stations.
This section, which also includes Hebburn and Jarrow stations, is the only remaining part of the network with only a single track, which means trains have to stop and allow others to pass using a traffic light system. The Metro Flow Project will correct this by converting the heavy rail line alongside the track into a dual-use line that can run both Metro trains and heavy goods services.
Buckingham Group has been awarded the £55 million contract for the work, which will make possible 24,000 passenger journeys a day when it is completed.
Rail contracts director at Buckingham Group Rob Harwood commented: “Buckingham is delighted to win this project and be involved in improving the Metro network.” He noted this is a continuation of a partnership with Nexus, which runs the Metro, with Buckingham having built a new depot at Howdon in 2020.
Mr Harwood said the firm will seek to “minimise any inconvenience” in the work and involve local schools and colleges in the “educational benefits” of having the project occur in their area.
He concluded: “The first phase will be detailed design this year and then mobilise for the construction phase early next year.”
Chief Operating Officer at Nexus Martin Kearney said the conversion of the track to dual use between the Metro and freight traffic will be “similar to the operations we have on the Sunderland line.”
He added this will “increase the frequency of Metro services system-wide from twelve minutes to ten minutes outside of the central areas,” which will mean more regular services and shorter journey times.
Mr Kearney concluded: “This project also gives us the scope to examine future opportunities to expand the network to other areas that are currently not served by Metro.”
Bridge bearing replacement work may be a significant part of the work, as the line crosses over several roads and pathways on the route, such as Hill Street near Jarrow Station, while major roads cross over the line, such as the B1297 by Hebburn Station.
There will certainly be some significant overhead work, as much of the scheme involves electrifying the converted section of track to allow the Metro trains to run on it.
None of the work will involve dealing with the sections of the network which run in tunnels, which are all located in Gateshead, Newcastle and Sunderland.
Most of the system runs overground in a similar way to light rail systems in cities like Manchester, including the use of old railways lines and stations that have been converted. Only a minority of it runs underground in a similar format to the London Underground or Glasgow Subway, but with overhead electric cables in the tunnels rather than electrified rails below.
The system began operating in 1980 with a mixture of converted lines and purpose-built tunnels and currently has 60 stations.