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Tyne and Wear Metro completes £3m tunnel track replacement

A £3m programme of track replacement in the tunnels of the Tyne and Wear Metro has now been completed, the Metro’s operator Nexus has reported.

Four kilometres of track has been successfully replaced in the tunnels which run from Jesmond to the Queen Elizabeth II Metro Bridge, which carries the Metro over the Tyne between Newcastle and Gateshead.

The work, which forms part of the authority’s £350m Metro modernisation programme, was carried out entirely at night to ensure that there was no disruption to Metro services on the busiest section of the system.

Raymond Johnstone, director of rail and infrastructure for Nexus, said: “We have invested £3m in the iconic Metro tunnels that run below the streets of Newcastle to ensure that can carry Metro trains for many decades to come.

“I’m delighted that Nexus was able to deliver this work in-house, using our own staff and equipment.”

The Metro tunnels work took place in stages between 12am and 4.30am, the hours in which Metro services are not in operation, as workers bolted sections of new rail onto concrete sleepers before the new rails were clamped and welded.

The work marks the first time that the Metro’s city centre tunnel rails have been entirely replaced since the system opened to passengers in August 1980.

The tunnels were bored out in the late 1970s and were built specially to carry Metro trains through the city centre towards Gateshead and South Tyneside.

Cllr Nick Forbes, lead member for Transport on the North East Combined Authority, of which Nexus is an executive body, said: “The Metro tunnels are a vital transport link for our region so this modernisation work is extremely welcome. Strong rail links are essential to the strength of the regional economy.”

The £350m Metro modernisation programme, cut from £383m by the DfT last year, is a government-funded plan to modernise the Tyne and Wear Metro with new-look stations, refurbished trains and new infrastructure such as tracks and signals.

The programme began in 2010 and is currently at the halfway stage with more than £200m already invested into the system. The modernisation work is expected to be completed in 2021.

So far, 25 Metro stations have been refurbished as part of the scheme along with 24.5km of new tracks being placed and 86 Metro trains refurbished. 12 bridges have also been reconstructed with a further five due to be strengthened in 2017.

In the longer term, the NECA hopes to invest over £1bn into expanding the Metro over the next 20 years as part of its recently announced Metro and Local Rail Strategy, including a new £550m fleet of trains.

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