Contractor appointed to carry out £100m track dualling scheme on Metro

A £100m track dualling scheme that will increase service frequency, cut journey times and improve reliability on the Tyne and Wear Metro has moved a step closer after a construction contractor was officially appointed.

Buckingham Group Contracting Ltd has won a £55m tender for the construction stage of Metro Flow project, which will see an existing freight line upgraded and electrified in South Tyneside.

The dualling of three key sections between Pelaw and Bede stations – scheduled for September to December 2022 – will create the capacity for an extra 24,000 Metro passenger journeys every day.

Nexus, the public body which owns and manages Metro, said the award of the contract was an important stage in a project that, when completed, would be of huge benefit to customers.

Metro Flow has secured £95m worth of funding from the Government’s Transforming Cities Fund. 

Chief Operating Officer at Nexus, Martin Kearney, said: “We’re looking forward to working with the Buckingham Group to deliver this exciting £100m scheme that will vastly improve Metro services for our customers. 

“It will involve the conversion of an existing heavy rail line, bringing it into dual use so that Metros can run alongside freight services, which is similar to the operations we have on the Sunderland line.

“This will increase the frequency of Metro services system-wide from twelve minutes to ten minutes outside of the central areas. For our passengers this means more regular services, and faster journey times.

“This project also gives us the scope to examine future opportunities to expand the network to other areas that are currently not served by Metro.”

Chair of the North East Joint Transport Committee, Cllr Martin Gannon, said: “This is an important milestone in the Metro Flow project, the largest element of the region’s Transforming Cities Fund programme by far. 

“The delivery of Metro Flow will be transformational for the people who use the Metro in the North East, improving journey times and the reliability of services for passengers. As a result, more services will be able to run across the entire Metro system, showing just how critical investment in transport is to the future success of our region. 

“Increased frequency on our system means we can help more and more people move efficiently across our network to access work, leisure and education in a green, sustainable way. This project will make a huge difference to thousands of journeys every day – hopefully encouraging more people out of their car and onto public transport.” 

The Buckingham Group bring a hugely successful track record in the construction industry, having delivered some of the UK’s biggest rail construction projects. They recently completed the work on the new temporary Metro depot at Howdon in North Tyneside.

Rail Contracts Director at Buckingham Group, Rob Harwood, said: “Buckingham is delighted to win this project and be involved in improving the Metro network. 

“Having recently completed the construction of the Howdon depot for Nexus in 2020, we are now able to continue working with Nexus and involving the supply chain in the region on this exciting project. 

“We will also work with the local community to minimise any inconvenience and involve local schools and colleges in the educational benefits from a significant project in their area. 

“The first phase will be detailed design this year and then mobilise for the construction phase early next year.”

Benefits of the Metro Flow project include:

  • Increasing the frequency of Metro trains to one every 10 minutes outside central areas
  • Deliver capacity for an extra 24,000 passengers a day
  • Improve reliability and allow quicker recovery from major disruptions
  • Better support for major events including the Great North Run, Sunderland International Airshow, stadium concerts, and major sporting events
  • Unlock the door to the expansion of the Metro system

In order to deliver the extra frequencies Nexus will use some of the funding to buy four extra new trains on top of the 42 new trains which have already been funded by the Government in a £362m programme of investment.

Three sections of single track on the Metro network totalling three kilometres will be dualled between Pelaw and Bede Metro stations.

There are three single-track sections on the Metro network, where trains must use the same line in both directions.

The sections of line are located between Pelaw and Hebburn (800 metres), Hebburn and Jarrow (1.4km) and Jarrow and Bede (600 metres).

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