Stadler prepares facilities for the new UK Tyne and Wear Metro trains

Swiss manufacturer Stadler, which has signed a contract to supply and maintain the new Tyne and Wear Metro trains in the UK, is now preparing its new depot.

The Tyne and Wear Metro is an overground and underground light rail rapid transit system serving the metropolitan boroughs of Newcastle upon Tyne, Gateshead, North Tyneside, South Tyneside and the City of Sunderland (together forming Tyne and Wear).

The network opened in stages from August 1980 and now serves 60 stations, with two lines covering a total of 77.6 kilometres. The system is currently owned and operated by the Tyne and Wear Passenger Transport Executive. It is branded as Nexus, and is fully under public ownership and operation.

In 2016, Nexus unveiled plans to secure funding of 643 million euros for a replacement fleet, with a target for them to be in service by the early 2020s. The proposed new fleet was planned to have dual-voltage capability, able to operate on the Metro’s existing 1.5 kV DC electrification system as well as the 25 kV AC used on the Network Rail network, to allow for expansion of Metro service. Battery technology was being considered.

Low-floor vehicles from Stadler

In January 2020, the Swiss manufacturer Stadler was awarded a contract to build and maintain 46 five-carriage light rail vehicles, with deliveries to commence in late 2021 and all trains to be in passenger service by 2024.

Stadler has conceived lightweight articulated five car units, which allow for an efficient and cost-effective operation. The low-floor vehicle solution combined with the use of retractable steps offers level entrance throughout the network. Compared to the metrocars (class 599) from 1980, the new units offer considerably lower energy consumption thanks to the light weight vehicle design, the efficient recovery of braking energy and the use of the latest, highly efficient traction converter technology.

The units are prepared for the integration of an energy storage system, allowing to serve potential extension lines added to the network in the near future.

Maintenance depot

Stadler is also responsible for servicing and maintaining these trains for 35 years, underscoring their commitment to the regional economy. This involves (re)building a depot in the Newcastle area.

In October 2020, Stadler has taken over the maintenance of the Tyne and Wear Metro train fleet and Gosforth depot in Newcastle, where 120 Nexus staff were transferred to Stadler. The Swiss manufacturer now has responsibility for servicing and maintaining of full fleet sets of trains on behalf of Nexus. For Stadler, this is the third success in the field of British ‘non-standard metros’, after the Glasgow Subway and the Merseyrail in the Liverpool region. Stadler’s competitor in the Tyne & Wear Metro market was CAF.

The first stage of the 80 million euro project saw the demolition of part of the 100-year-old depot alongside the installation of brand new stabling roads and overhead lines. Stadler’s next steps will see demolition and construction work to create a modern home for the Metro’s new fleet of trains over the next few months.

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Author: Frédéric de Kemmeter

Frédéric de Kemmeter is signalling technician and railway policy observer.

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