26 August 2008

£300 million to secure Tyne & Wear Metro

Re-invigoration Phase 2 is to start soon and will cost the government around £300 million. It forms part of an initial improvement package that signals an approved contractor to be sought by NEXUS, the Tyne & Wear PTE who operates the Metro system.

Since its inception the system has been wholly operated by NEXUS, making the T&W Metro rather unique in the UK since the mid-90s as no private firm operates any of the trains; yet while NEXUS will still operate the system, concerns have been raised, primarily by the RMT Union, that Phase 2 is nothing more than a "poisoned chalice". Previous upgrades to the system have been small and have seen most works carried out in-house and those which have been contracted out have only been done so as specialist technologies needed for the specific works could not be sought from within Metro's labour force.

Now, the RMT Union fears that £300 million will go to one outside contractor and that its workforce will not get a look-in. Whoever is awarded the contract will be required to modernise all stations (£45 million); install new communications and signals (£26 million); modernise overhead power lines (£43.3 million); modernise other infrastructure and technology (£36 million); overhaul 200 structures (£28 million); and to completely refurbish the 90 trains (£15 million). Work starts from April 2010 and should be complete by 2019.

RMT General Secretary Bob Crow said, "We will not hesitate to take industrial action to defend safety, jobs, pensions and the decent public service the Tyne & Wear Metro passengers have enjoyed since 1980."

In contrast David Wood, Chairman of the T&W Passenger Transport Authority, said that "The commitment by the government [to provide £300 million] is no less important than the original decision to build the network, and means Metro is secure for years to come."

On 7 September last year we detailed elements of Re-invigoration Phase 1, which is currently underway. Phase 3 has yet to be agreed with the government, but should it be done so another £300 million is likely to be invested on new rolling stock (£163 million); new signalling (£39.6 million); new ticket machines (£20.9 million); new track and overhead lines (£10 million); and structures, stations and technologies (£47.5 million).

Potted history of the T&W Metro:
  • 1974, and work begins on the construction of the system
  • 1980 sees the official opening of the system to the public
  • By 1984 trains are now operating to South Shields following the opening of this first extension
  • In 1981 Metro sees its second extension open: to Newcastle Airport
  • 2002 sees service extend to Sunderland, the third extension
  • In 2007 a Re-invigoration Programme is agreed by the government with funding for Phase 1 agreed
  • 2008 and Phase 2 funding is agreed but protests by the RMT over concerns about job losses as work is being awarded to the private sector threatens the immediate timescale...