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Sunday, May 19, 2024

Metro drivers get their first drive of the new Stadler Metro train

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Metro drivers have had their first chance to drive the new Stadler Metro train, experiencing the modern technology which is going to transform their job.

The new Metro trains boast advanced digital systems which put every function at a driver’s finger tips, including on board computerised controls set in a modern ‘space-age’ driving cab.

Eight experienced drivers, who form the Metro Futures Traincrew Specialist Team, had the honour of being among first drivers to put the multi-million-pound Stadler train through its paces at a special test track in the Czech Republic.

It was a chance to immerse themselves in the new train, and get to grips with the controls, after many months helping to design them, and learning about the new technology and its capabilities. 

They took the brand-new Class 555 Metro for a drive around a special 4km 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.

Craig Pearson, a Traincrew Specialist, and Metro Driver of ten years, went over to the Czech Republic and was the very first driver to drive the new Metro train. 

He said: “It was a huge moment for me to drive the new Stadler Metro train for the first time. The technology that these new trains offer us are going to be transformative and are a world away from the old fleet.

“Everything is at your fingertips in the new drivers’ cab. The layout is better and the computerised control systems are amazing. It’s a huge jump from analogue to digital technology.

“It was a fantastic trip to be a part of and after two years of hard efforts from the Traincrew Specialists team to get this train just right for us as drivers and our customers.

“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.

“It was an honour to be in the first group to head out to the test centre in the Czech Republic, and to be one of the first drivers to drive the new fleet is something I will treasure forever.

“The new train very smooth, quiet, and comfortable to drive and will undoubtedly improve our working environment.

“We really can’t wait to continue this journey and to welcome the new fleet to the North East. There is a lot of work still left to do, with testing and commissioning beginning as soon as the first unit arrives here, but there is a lot of excitement within our team, across our staff at Metro, and Nexus, and of course our customers who will benefit above all from the new layout, comfort, security and reliability. It really is a massive step forward for Metro.”

Head of Fleet and Depot Replacement Programme at Nexus, Michael Richardson, said: “It’s fantastic that our first group of Metro drivers have had the chance to drive the new Stadler train over on the test track for the first time.

“It’s a really exciting moment for them, and a very important one, given that our Specialists are the drivers who have been designated the task of helping to deliver the new fleet into service later this year.

“Everyone who went out to the test facility in the Czech Republic was wowed by the new train. The technology and cab layout offer a far better driving experience. The digital technology will be transformative.

“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.”

The four Metro drivers on the photo, from left to right,Samuel Crooks-Freeman, Richard Cooper, Craig Pearson and Antony Gray.

Adrian Wetter, Project Manager for Stadler, said: “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. 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.”

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.

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.

The first train is scheduled to enter service in the autumn.

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 £70m Metro depot at Gosforth in Newcastle, which will be a modern new home for the new Metro trains. 

Photo credit: Nexus

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