Watch work on £100-million plus Metro Flow scheme which has been more than four years in the making
More than four years of planning will come to a head when work starts on a massive £100millon-plus project to transform Metro services in South Tyneside next week.
The £104million Metro Flow project will see three sections of single track dualled by refurbishing an existing freight line during a 12-week closure which starts on Monday, September 12 – the longest and biggest planned closure in the network’s 42 years.
In total, 800m of line between Pelaw and Hebburn, 1.4km between Hebburn and Jarrow and 600m between Jarrow and Bede will be upgraded.
The entire route between Pelaw and South Shields will be closed in both directions until December 4, with replacement buses running, while work is carried out.
Metro operator Nexus invited the media to its trackside site in Wardley Lane, Gateshead, today, Thursday, September 8, to get an insight into what is involved.
It comes a day after the first anniversary of the project being unveiled.
Hundreds of staff will work around the clock, seven days a week, to install almost 5km of new rails, more than 8,400 new sleepers, 27,100 tonnes of new track ballast
and 138 new overhead line masts.
Nexus project manager Tom Hardwick said the scheme had been in the pipeline for more than four years.
"It is the biggest thing Nexus has done on the tracks since the Sunderland extension opened back in 2001,” he said.
"We have been on site since March of this year, but before that we had the process of planning the project, which lasted about two years.
"And before that, we were developing the business case to secure the funding necessary, which again took about two years.”
A total of £95milion has been secured from the Government’s Transforming Cities Fund, allowing Nexus to deliver the scheme, and add an extra four trains to its planned new fleet.
Nexus is laying on two replacement bus services to suit passengers’ different needs: “We have invested quite a lot of money to make sure we are able to provide customers with a service that works,” said Tom.
"We have an express service that only goes to South Shields, Jarrow and Heworth in addition to a stopping service.”
Mal Palmer is site manager for contractor Buckingham Construction and outlined the scale of the operation required to work non-stop for 12 weeks: “We have carried out inductions for around 500 people,” he said.
The firm was committed to maximising the scheme’s benefit to South Tyneside: “We are trying to use as many local suppliers as we can and the majority of people working on site will be employed locally,” added Mal.
Major Projects Director at Nexus, Cathy Massarella, said the work would have a major impact not just on the South Tyneside line but the entire system, by removing its biggest bottleneck and allowing more services to operate simultaneously.
"This allows us to get rid of the only remaining three stretches of single track on the network,” she said.
"At present, the system is maxed out in terms of what we can put on it. This project is an enabler for so many strategic opportunities for the Metro network for the next generation.
"It will allow us to look at our frequencies and also at expanding the network to new areas of the region.”