The ageing trains and carriages on the Tyne & Wear Metro are to be replaced in what has been described as the biggest project in the light rail and transit system’s history.
Rail operator Nexus has launched a £362m tender for the contract to design, construct and maintain 84 carriages – or 42 trains – and will announce the winning bid in 2019.
Nick Forbes, leader of Newcastle City Council, described the investment as long overdue and added that the beginning of the procurement process heralded a bright new era for the Tyne & Wear Metro.
The rail system, which incorporates both underground and overground stations, serves Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, Gateshead, Tyneside and Sunderland. It opened in 1980 and is considered the earliest modern light rail system in the UK.
The existing trains and carriages date back to the 1970s and have been in continuous service since the Metro opened. As the rolling stock has aged, reliability problems have led to frequent breakdowns, delays and cancellation of services. By investing in new stock Nexus hope to improve efficiency, thus sourcing savings in the long run. The UK Government has promised £337m towards the new stock, while Nexus has committed £25m.
Specifications for the tender are still being finalised, but the new train carriages will be required to feature phone charging points and air conditioning, as well as more space for wheelchairs. A new maintenance depot will also be constructed on the site of the existing 1920s depot at Gosforth.
Following the publication of an endorsed notification in the Official Journal of the European Union, Nexus expects to receive bids from global rolling stock providers and will draw up a shortlist of bids later this year. New trains are expected to come into service from the end of 2021, with obsolete stock gradually being phased out as replacements take over.