£100million Metro Flow project takes step forward, paving way for faster, better Metro services in South Tyneside

A £100m track-dualling scheme to bring better, faster and more Metro services to South Tyneside has taken a step forward.

Friday, 14th May 2021, 11:08 am
Updated Friday, 14th May 2021, 4:22 pm
Transport chiefs say the Metro Flow programme will bring a number of benefits to the North East
Transport chiefs say the Metro Flow programme will bring a number of benefits to the North East

The Metro Flow project will see the dualling of three key sections between Pelaw and Bede stations – scheduled for September to December 2022 - creating capacity for an extra 24,000 Metro passenger journeys every day.

Transport chiefs say it will also cut journey times and improve the reliability of the service, and allow it to better support for major events including the Great North Run, Sunderland International Airshow, stadium concerts, and sporting events.

It is hoped the project will also unlock the door for expanding the Metro system.

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Martin Kearney, chief operating officer at Nexus, and Rob Harwood, Rail Contracts Director at Buckingham Group, sign the contract for Metro Flow project.

Now Buckingham Group Contracting Ltd has won a £55million tender for the construction stage of Metro Flow project, which will see an existing freight line upgraded and electrified in South Tyneside.

Nexus, the public body which owns and manages Metro, said the award of the contract was an important stage in a project that, when completed, would be of huge benefit to customers.

Chief operating officer at Nexus, Martin Kearney, said: “We’re looking forward to working with the Buckingham Group to deliver this exciting £100m scheme that will vastly improve Metro services for our customers.

“It will involve the conversion of an existing heavy rail line, bringing it into dual use so that Metros can run alongside freight services, which is similar to the operations we have on the Sunderland line.

“This will increase the frequency of Metro services system-wide from twelve minutes to ten minutes outside of the central areas. For our passengers this means more regular services, and faster journey times.

“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.”

Metro Flow has secured £95million worth of funding from the Government’s Transforming Cities Fund.

Chair of the North East Joint Transport Committee, Cllr Martin Gannon, said: “This is an important milestone in the Metro Flow project, the largest element of the region’s Transforming Cities Fund programme by far.

“The delivery of Metro Flow will be transformational for the people who use the Metro in the North East, improving journey times and the reliability of services for passengers. As a result, more services will be able to run across the entire Metro system, showing just how critical investment in transport is to the future success of our region.

“Increased frequency on our system means we can help more and more people move efficiently across our network to access work, leisure and education in a green, sustainable way. This project will make a huge difference to thousands of journeys every day – hopefully encouraging more people out of their car and onto public transport.”

Rail Contracts Director at Buckingham Group, Rob Harwood, said: “Having recently completed the construction of the Howdon depot for Nexus in 2020, we are now able to continue working with Nexus and involving the supply chain in the region on this exciting project.

“We will also work with the local community to minimise any inconvenience and involve local schools and colleges in the educational benefits from a significant project in their area.

“The first phase will be detailed design this year and then mobilise for the construction phase early next year.”

Chiefs say the benefits of the Metro Flow project include:

:: Increasing the frequency of Metro trains to one every 10 minutes outside central areas

:: Deliver capacity for an extra 24,000 passengers a day

:: Improve reliability and allow quicker recovery from major disruptions

:: Better support for major events including the Great North Run, Sunderland International Airshow, stadium concerts, and major sporting events

:: Unlock the door to the expansion of the Metro system

:: In order to deliver the extra frequencies Nexus will use some of the funding to buy four extra new trains on top of the 42 new trains which have already been funded by the Government in a £362m programme of investment.

:: Three sections of single track on the Metro network totalling three kilometres will be dualled between Pelaw and Bede Metro stations.

:: There are three single-track sections on the Metro network, where trains must use the same line in both directions.

:: The sections of line are located between Pelaw and Hebburn (800 metres), Hebburn and Jarrow (1.4km) and Jarrow and Bede (600 metres).

What is the Metro Flow project?

Three sections of single track on the Metro network totalling three kilometres will be dualled between Pelaw and Bede Metro stations.

There are three single-track sections on the Metro network, where trains must use the same line in both directions.

The sections of line are located between Pelaw and Hebburn (800 metres), Hebburn and Jarrow (1.4km) and Jarrow and Bede (600 metres).

These pinch points are the only remaining sections of the Metro network that is like this and it is something that is highly unusual for a mass transit system.

Single track sections effectively creates a traffic light problem - with drivers having to wait for the green light each time they make a journey along these sections of single track.

Because this is already one of the busiest rail networks in the UK anything more than an extra few seconds can cause knock-on delays right across the Metro network.

With so little slack in the system it also makes it difficult for Metro to expand with little headroom in timetables to add additional stops and new routes.

By converting the three outstanding sections to dual tracks Nexus can solve this problem.

The Metro Flow project is something Nexus has done before. Metro was created and then expanded by upgrading neglected rail routes to create a modern mass transit system.

This project would see an infrequently used freight line upgraded and electrified so both Metro and freight trains could share the route in future - just as they do in other parts of the Metro network right now.

What chiefs say Metro Flow will deliver:

More capacity: an estimated 24,000 additional spaces per day across the system to transport more customers in greater comfort

More frequency: a 20% uplift in daytime services network wide each week, reducing overall customer journey times

More resilience: improvement in service recovery in the area of the network which is most affected, meaning a reduced impact on our customers during times of disruption.

:: An additional 10.9 million passenger kilometres travelled on Metro and a reduction of 3 million car kilometres at opening year 2022/23

:: An additional 1.7 million passenger journeys on the network by 2030

:: A reduction of 517,000 kg1 of CO2 and 38,000 kg of NO2 per year

:: Journey time benefits for commuters/non-business users of £177m

:: Transport Economic Efficiency benefits of £182m

:: Wider Economic Impacts of £90m

Transforming Cities Fund – North East

The Transforming Cities Fund (TCF) has provided the North East region with £208m for capital investment in sustainable transport networks – one of the largest TCF programmes in the UK.

Encouraging more journeys to be made using sustainable modes of transport such as public transport and active travel (walking and cycling) is a key objective of the Fund.

Transport North East (TNE) is responsible for the daily management activities of the programme on behalf of the North East Joint Transport Committee (NEJTC) and oversees compliance with the region’s Transport Assurance Framework process.

For more information on the North East Transforming Cities Fund programme visit: https://www.transportnortheast.gov.uk/projects-and-campaigns/transforming-cities-fund/

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