Newcastle Metro sends top drivers for first drive of new fleet in Brno
From a seat on Tyneside to sitting beside the manufacturers in Czech Republic, central Europe. Newcastle Metro drivers have had their first chance to drive the new Stadler Metro train on the test track in the Czech Republic, experiencing the modern technology which is going to transform their job. The new Metro trains, which will replace an ageing fleet around Tyneside and Wearside in the north east of England, boast advanced digital systems which put every function at a driver’s finger tips, including on board computerised controls set in modern driving cab.
The eagerly awaited update of the Tyne and Wear Metro is a step closer. Eight experienced drivers, who form the Metro Futures Traincrew Specialist Team, are among the first drivers to put the multi-million-pound Stadler train through its paces at the special test track at Velim in the Czech Republic. They took the brand-new Class 555 Metro for a drive around a special four kilometre test ring deep in the Czech countryside with Stadler Engineers on board to guide them. Nexus, the public body which owns and manages Metro, said it was a significant moment for the £362m project ahead of the first new train arriving in north east England.
Valuable opportunity for both the operator and manufacturer
Craig Pearson, a Traincrew Specialist, and Metro driver of ten years standing, went over to the Czech Republic and was the very first driver to drive the new Metro train. “It was a huge moment for me”, he said. “The technology that these new trains offer us are going to be transformative and are a world away from the old fleet. We have worked on designs, computer aided drawings and a cab mock-up to guide us, but to see the train and actually drive it really was a ‘pinch yourself’ moment. There is a lot of work still left to do, with testing and commissioning. It really is a massive step forward for Metro.”
Designed through extensive consultation with employees, the new Metro driving console features adaptive traction control alongside built-in rail sanding to cope with the toughest autumn and winter conditions. At the same time monitors let drivers view cameras throughout the train and speak directly with customers should the need arise. Head of Fleet and Depot Replacement Programme at Nexus, Michael Richardson, said that having a group of Metro drivers out in Brno was a valuable opportunity for both the operator, Nexus, and the manufacturer Stadler. “Everyone who went out to the test facility in the Czech Republic was wowed by the new train”, he said. “We currently have 177 drivers who need to undergo training on the new fleet. Everyone will get time in the special simulator ahead of driving one of the new trains on our network for real.”
A step change in comfort and quality
Twenty Metro drivers have also become learning and development specialists, which means they have gained expert knowledge of the new Stadler trains so that they can train their fellow drivers, using a state-of-the-art simulator. Stadler, the Swiss train manufacturer, is building 46 new trains for the Tyne and Wear Metro. “Nexus staff driving the train on test at the test-centre in Velim represents another step forward in the process to deliver a new fleet for the Tyne and Wear Metro”, said Adrian Wetter, project manager for Stadler. “These trains have been designed with drivers, as well as customers in mind. We are pleased that their first experience of driving one of them was successful, and will continue to work closely with Nexus throughout the testing period over the next few months.”
The first train is scheduled to enter service in the autumn of this year (2023). The new trains will deliver a step change in comfort and quality, and will cut energy consumption, will have modern features including charging points, air conditioning and a step-change in accessibility. Among the new features will be an automatic sliding step at every door of the new trains, making travel easier for Metro’s 50,000 wheelchair passengers as well as people with children’s buggies, luggage or bicycles. Stadler is also close to completing a new 70 million pound (83 million euro) Metro depot at Gosforth in Newcastle, which will be a modern new home for the new Metro trains.