Metro bosses have got the green light to build a new £8.4million railway skills centre in South Shields.
Transport executive Nexus said the Metro Maintenance and Renewals Skills Centre will be a stunning new training facility to deliver a wide range of infrastructure and operations training to 1,000 people who work on the rail system.
South Tyneside Council has now granted planning permission for the development. The centre will complement work going on under the council's 365 regeneration project to breathe new life into South Shields town centre, which includes a new transport hub serving the Metro and bus services.
Nexus managing director Tobyn Hughes,said: “Our new £8.4million 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.
He added: “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 project is being funded through a £7million grant from the Government’s Local Growth Fund Deal through the North East Local Enterprise Partnership and North East Combined Authority and a £1.4million contribution by Nexus.
The centre will have a mocked-up Metro station complete with a full length platform, ticket gates, PA system, CCTV and Help Point.
It will also include a 70-metre 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.
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 start next May and is scheduled for completion in Spring 2019.
There will be space at the new training centre to stable a small number of Metro trains and carry out light maintenance on 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 double height 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 (SGP), one of the UK’s leading architectural practices, have secured the contract to design the new training centre.
Alistair Branch, director of Stephen George and Partners , said: “This is a key milestone, enabling the team to now focus on the construction stage of the Metro Skills and Renewals Centre.
"SGP is pleased that with this decision and their continued support, Nexus and Galliford Try will realise the delivery of a facility which will maintain the future of the Metro fleet and train the drivers and engineers of tomorrow.”