Metro bosses promise 'short-term pain for long-term gain' as network prepares for 'longest and biggest' works shutdown in its history - starting the day after the Great North Run
Major line closures needed to upgrade the Metro in South Tyneside will be “short-term pain for the sake of long-term gain”, transport officials have said.
The biggest partial shutdown ever seen on the Tyne and Wear public transport network is set to get under way next week to allow for a £100 million track dualling project in the borough.
And once complete, the works are expected to improve reliability across the wider system, while also allowing operator Nexus to increase the frequency of future services – and possibly even pave the way for future extensions.
“It’s a major project and the longest closure we have ever had on Metro,” said Claire Tulley, stakeholder relations officer for Nexus, told Monday’s (September 5) meeting of the Hebburn Community Area Forum (CAF).
“The reason for the 12-week closure, which is 24/7 working, is if we had done it on weekend closures it would have taken longer to get the job done.
“So it’s short-term pain for the sake of long-term gain and once that is done, we will see a better service through South Tyneside”.
Metro Flow requires a 12-week major line closure between Pelaw and South Shields stations between September 12 - December 3.
During that time, regular commuters will have to switch to a replacement bus service, with Metro services currently slated to restart on Sunday, December 4.
The line closure will start the day after the Great North Run, with customers travelling between Pelaw and South Shields advised to plan ahead and allow extra time for journeys.
Alternative options drawn up by transport chiefs include the 900 service, calling at all affected stations on the route, and the X900, providing an express service from South Shields to Heworth, via Jarrow.
Metro Flow will allow three sections of single track left on the Metro network, totalling three kilometres, to be dualled between Pelaw and Bede Metro stations.
Currently, trains using these sections must use the same line in both directions, meaning even minor delays or other incidents can cause large hold-ups for travellers.
The sections of line are located between Pelaw and Hebburn (800 metres), Hebburn and Jarrow (1.4km) and Jarrow and Bede (600 metres).
According to Nexus, the planned closure will be the "longest and biggest” in Metro’s 42-year history.
The Government’s Transforming Cities Fund, has provided £95 million towards the estimated £103 million final cost of the scheme.
Cllr Tracey Dixon, leader of South Tyneside Council, previously praised the scheme which, she said, would bring benefits to the borough and wider region including quicker journeys, more services and increased reliability.
She added: “Having a safe, reliable and sustainable public transport network is crucial for people to get around, whether they are travelling to work, education or for recreation.
“The planned line closure marks a significant step in the Metro Flow project, an investment which will bring long term benefits to the Borough and the wider region.
“Although it does mean there will be major disruption over the coming months for those who use the Metro to travel to and from South Tyneside, people are assured that once the Metro Flow project is complete, it will make a huge difference with journey times and frequency vastly improved.
“The track dualling will also help to minimise disruption if problems occur while creating scope for expansion of the Metro network in the future.”
Cllr Wilf Flynn, chairman of Hebburn CAF, said it was “important” residents were made aware of the works.
He added: “The Metros are going to be off, we understand why they’re going to be off and if anybody is still asking why, just put your thinking cap on.
“There’s men going to be working on the railway line producing another line - it can’t have metro trains running past”.
Major Projects Director at Nexus, Cathy Massarella, also claimed the scheme could help pave the way for future extensions to the network.
She said: “This is the longest and biggest planned closure on Metro that we’ve ever undertaken in 42 years of operations.
“The £100 million Metro Flow project involves a massive programme of track dualling, which can only be carried out during a three-month major line closure.
“It is never an easy decision to close such a large section of the network for such a long period of time, but this is the only way that we can effectively deliver the track dualling works.
“I would like to thank our customers for their patience and understanding while these works are taking place.
“The closure will run from Monday, September 12, until Sunday, December 4.
"Customers will need to plan ahead when the line closure is in place.
"Allow plenty of extra time for your journeys and there will be frequent replacement buses running, which includes an express service between Heworth and South Shields.
“The work will see three pinch points on the Metro network eliminated by the dualling of an existing freight line, which will become part of the of Metro’s own infrastructure.
“This also gives us the scope to examine future opportunities to expand the network to other areas that are currently not served by Metro.”
More information about Metro Flow and travel advice can be found via the Nexus website.