Introduction of the new Tyne and Wear Metro fleet has been delayed, with Metro owner Nexus announcing that further testing of some systems on the new trains in very specific conditions is needed.
Nexus has ordered 46 new Class 555 trains from Stadler to replace the current Metro fleet, which dates from the system’s launch in the 1980s. In a statement, Nexus said: ‘This unfortunately will impact the current delivery timescales, but we won’t know the extent of this until the additional testing is concluded. We will still continue to make progress with the wider testing programme while this is happening.’ While there have been reports in local media that introduction of the new fleet has been delayed until the end of 2024, Nexus says it has not specified a date for entry into service but is aiming to introduce the new trains this year, although this is likely to be later than the previous planned spring 2024 introduction. Five of the ‘555s’ have been delivered to the UK so far.
The legacy fleet has become increasingly unreliable in recent months, and Nexus says Stadler (which is maintaining this fleet ahead of the introduction of the new trains) is working closely with suppliers to source spare parts for the ageing fleet. Nexus says it has invested further in maintenance of the current trains, bringing in heaters adapted from the airline industry to protect them through the winter, and this has helped improve fleet availability. Nexus is also monitoring timetables, and says it will prioritise maintaining a regular service above running to timetable.
Meanwhile, work has been completed on the new Metro depot at Gosforth. The £70 million project was led by Stadler, which appointed VolkerFitzpatrick as its construction partner. The purpose-built facility, designed for the new fleet, includes inspection roads and pits, a separate wheel lathe building and a train wash. There is a storage area for spare parts and materials, as well as office space for training and support functions. The facility also has a component drop to enhance maintenance efficiency, monorail cranes on both light maintenance roads and an overhead crane on the heavy maintenance roads for lifting roof components. A room dedicated to managing train movements digitally has been strategically positioned to have a bird’s eye view of the depot.
The new depot has been built on the site of the original 100-year-old facility, which has been the base for the Metro fleet since the system opened in the 1980s.