Transport chiefs have released the first image of the new railway skills centre to be built in South Shields town centre - and confirmed construction work will start in the spring.
Nexus, the public body which owns and manages the Tyne and Wear Metro, announced plans to build the £8.4million Metro Maintenance and Renewals Skills Centre in South Shields town centre last year.
The complex will be a state-of-art, bespoke training facility for Nexus to deliver a wide range of infrastructure and operations training, serving 1,000 staff.
The centre will be built within the existing Metro sidings between Mile End Road and Salem Street in South Shields, on the site of part of the town’s original railway station, which was closed when the Metro line was built in the early 1980s.
The project is being funded through a £7million grant from the Government’s Local Growth Fund Deal through the North East Local Enterprise Partnership and a £1.4million contribution by Nexus.
The new facility will boast a 70m 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.
Managing Director of Nexus, Tobyn Hughes, said: “Our new £8.4m rail skills centre will deliver a step change in the quality of the training that we can provide to our staff, contractors and industry partners.
“This will be a state-of-the art training centre that will be vastly superior to the training facilities we have at the moment. This will be of huge benefit to our workforce and for the long term future of the Tyne and Wear Metro system.
“The site in South Shields offers an excellent location on the existing Metro network. The town centre is already enjoying major regeneration through South Tyneside Council’s 365 Masterplan and we are partners in building a new transport interchange.
“The new Skills Centre will complement this redevelopment and bring new opportunities to the area.”
The centre will complement work underway to redevelop the town centre under the 365 regeneration masterplan, which includes a new transport interchange for bus and Metro services on the site of the former post office and other buildings in Keppel Street.
Councillor Iain Malcolm, leader of South Tyneside Council, said: “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.
“The council’s significant investment through the 365 regeneration masterplan is starting to pay dividends by triggering private sector investment.
“The new skills centre will be another piece of the jigsaw in South Shields’ transformation and will bring huge benefits to the town.”
Chris Scoffield, managing director of Galliford Try’s Rail, Aviation & Environment business unit, said: “We’re delighted for this opportunity both to work with Nexus and to strengthen our rail presence in the North East. We recognise how important the project is to the future of training and development on the Tyne and Wear Metro system and looking forward to being part of a great project.”
David Land, board member for the North East LEP, said: “The new training centre will be a fantastic facility for Nexus and a great addition to South Tyneside.
"We are delighted to support this project which aligns perfectly with the North East Strategic Economic Plan and highlights that improving skills in our workforce is fundamental to create more and better jobs across the region.”
The centre have a mocked up Metro stations complete with a full length platform, ticket gates, PA system, CCTV and Help Points.
The Skills Centre 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 to next April and is scheduled for completion in early 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.
The combined maintenance and training centre will consist of four training rooms which can be converted into two large classrooms.
Other facilities will include a reception, 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 secured the contract to design the new training centre.