A year of major Metro renewals

Source: RTM Apr/May 17

The Tyne and Wear Metro is set for another major programme of track replacement work in 2017 as part of the £350m modernisation of the system, explains Raymond Johnstone, director of rail and infrastructure at Nexus.

Nexus, the public body which owns and operates Metro, will be investing £35m into Metro’s ageing infrastructure over the next 12 months. The work will involve major projects to renew tracks, track beds, track drainage, bridges and overhead lines. 

This work is part of the ‘Metro: all change’ modernisation programme, the scheme to secure Metro’s long-term future over 11 years which is being funded by the government. Nexus embarked on its modernisation programme in 2010 and, so far, it has been delivered on time, hitting the targets set down by the DfT. 

Major Metro projects this year include the renewal of a 13km stretch of track and track beds. This element of the work will mark the completion of track replacement on Metro’s coastal loop, which links Newcastle with the district of North Tyneside. 

Previous years have seen track replaced throughout North Tyneside and through Newcastle’s suburbs and city centre tunnels, Metro’s busiest route, which runs from South Gosforth to Monument Metro station beneath the city’s streets. 

Earlier this year re-railing work was successfully completed on the line between Wallsend and the centre of Newcastle, including the replacement of the track on the iconic Byker viaduct, which was purpose-built in the late 1970s to carry Metro services. 

A total of £20m will be spent on replacing all of Metro’s overhead lines, a project which is being delivered in-house by Nexus engineering teams. This work will start over the summer and will cover all 68km of the Metro system, with completion scheduled for 2022. 


Nexus is currently midway through phase 2 of the modernisation programme, renewing and rebuilding many parts of the Metro system. Track, embankments, signalling, ducting, bridges, tunnels, stations, IT and communication systems and many other features all make up the fabric of the Metro system. Many of them were built and installed during the 1970s, although large parts of the system are much older than that, including structures that were built by the Victorians over 150 years ago. 

The Metro reinvigoration programme is designed to progressively replace and renew life-expired assets to reduce the risks of infrastructure failure, to improve operational reliability and efficiency, and to ensure that the system can keep operating long into the future. 

We are pressing on with modernisation projects worth a total of £35m in 2017. There are some major schemes and they are absolutely vital in order to ensure that the Tyne and Wear Metro system is here for many more generations to come. We have been delivering scores of modernisation projects, large and small, every year since 2010. 

The major achievements have been the large-scale track replacements schemes. These works have required an enormous amount of planning to ensure delivery with tight timeframes so that the line closures have been kept to an absolute minimum. Our contractors’ use of non-intrusive cross over, or NICS, has been a major plus point in getting work done. 

New train fleet 

Nexus will be investing £110m through to 2021 on modernisation projects. This will bring total investment across the decade to over £350m. It is also in discussion with the government over funding for its plans to invest £537m in a new train fleet, and for a further £518.5m to continue with the programme of essential renewals throughout the next decade. 

This forms part of the Metro and Local Rail strategy agreed by the North East Combined Authority to ensure the long-term future and development of Metro and local rail services within the region. 

Much hard work lies ahead. We are seeking the funds for a new fleet of trains and we have presented a strong business case to ministers. The age of the Metro fleet is becoming more of an issue, so it’s of paramount importance that we replace the trains by the mid-2020s.

For more information



Andrew Gwilt   15/05/2017 at 10:38

Not forgetting new rolling stock trains to replace the current rolling stocks that are still operating the Tyne & Wear metro network.

Ryan   17/05/2017 at 17:50

Yes, Andrew, they've not "forgotten".

Andrew Gwilt   18/05/2017 at 22:12

Ryan. It sounds like you really are annoyed of me. Chill out will you.

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