Norman Baker sees refurbishment work and modernisation project first-hand on the Tyne and Wear Metro network.
The north east Tyneside metro network is being improved in a £385m Government-funded scheme over the next 11 years.
Transport Minister Norman Baker visited the Tyne & Wear Metro on January 17 to take a ride on the first refurbished train and inspect progress of the system’s ‘all change’ modernisation scheme.
Mr Baker started his visit at the system’s main depot in South Gosforth. There he inspected the first two refurbished Metrocars, Nos. 4041 and 4072, before taking a short ride on them to Benton. This is one of the system’s first refurbished stations, featuring new lifts and a new footbridge - helping to improve access to a large special school nearby.
He later travelled on to Chillingham Road station, which now has a cleaner more modern appearance, refurbished platforms and ticket hall, brighter lighting and better security.
The fleet of 90 trains are being refurbished by Wabtec in Doncaster. There they are stripped down to a shell before being rebuilt and finished with a new interior and seating arrangement. They also carry a new livery of metallic grey, black and yellow. The next two to be returned will be Nos. 4046 and 4061.
Stations are being fitted with a total of 225 new ticket machines capable of accepting credit/debit cards as well as cash. Automatic ticket gates, similar to those on the London Underground, will be installed at 13 key sites.
Other stations completed so far include Howdon, Meadow Well and North Shields. The Haymarket Metro station project in the centre of Newcastle was completed in 2010.
The £385m ‘Metro: all change’ modernisation programme is the biggest project to take place since the system was built more than 30 years ago. It was opened in August 1980 and has grown to include 60 stations on two lines stretching from Newcastle airport to Sunderland, and along the banks of the Tyne to North and South Shields. Much of it is built on former heavy-rail routes that date back 150 years.
Bernard Garner, Director General of the operator Nexus, said: “The £385m Metro all change programme is going to secure Metro’s future for decades to come. The Government is committed to the project and Mr Baker’s visit was a chance to show him the work that is taking place.”