Tyne and Wear Metro modernisation to go ahead
The Government has agreed a funding package worth £580 million to modernise and operate the Tyne and Wear Metro, which serves Newcastle, Sunderland and the surrounding areas.
Most of the money, up to £350 million, will be spent on an 11-year programme of renewals the light rail system, embracing track, signalling, communications and stations. A further £230 million will support running and maintenance costs to 2019.
The funding package is by far the biggest in Metro's 30-year history and secures the future of the light rail system, used by more than 40 million passengers every year.
Cllr David Wood, chairman of the Tyne and Wear Integrated Transport Authority, said: "This is an unprecedented funding boost for Metro secured at a time when public spending in general is under real pressure.
"Metro is vital to the economy and social life of North East England and has a crucial role to play as our region emerges from recession.
"This announcement is worth something like £2.5 billion to the economy through the impact Metro has supporting jobs and opportunity, as well as creating scores more in the engineering and construction sectors."
The capital grant from Government combined with local expenditure means Nexus, which owns and manages Metro, can invest almost £400 million modernising it over the next 11 years.
In the early years the money will allow Nexus to modernise and improve accessibility at 12 stations, renew more than 11km of track and 34 bridges, lay 60,000 metres of new cabling and oversee the refurbishment of all 90 Metrocars.
This is in addition to existing programmes to modernise Sunderland and Haymarket stations, to be completed this year, and the installation of new ticket machines at every station capable of selling 'smart' tickets backed by online purchase.
As part of the funding settlement a new contractor, DB Regio Tyne and Wear Ltd, will operate stations and trains on behalf of Nexus from 1 April 2010.
Adrian Shooter, chairman of DB Regio Tyne and Wear Ltd, said: "Metro is already a very good railway system, and we are very excited by the opportunity to raise performance and customer service even higher.
"DB will be able to use our experience on London Overground and Chiltern Railways in fine-tuning Metro operations to achieve standards set when it first opened in 1980, when it was rightly considered among the best in the world."