Nexus, which owns and manages the Tyne and Wear Metro, is to spend more than £22m in the comprehensive modernisation of the route between Byker and Tynemouth in spring 2011.
This huge programme will mean a Major Line Closure of 23 days from Saturday March 12 to Sunday April 3, plus a series of weekend line closures and major building works at stations.
A frequent replacement bus service will ensure passengers see as little inconvenience as possible. Metro is launching an information campaign to make sure passengers have the right travel information for them ahead of line closures.
The works represent the biggest modernisation project on a Metro line since the system open in 1980, and will take the amount Nexus has invested in modernising Metro in the last year alone to around £40m.
It forms part of the £385m Metro: all change modernisation programme, the largest series of capital projects on the system since it opened more than 30 years-ago.
Director General of Nexus, Bernard Garner, said: “This modernisation work is vital if Metro is going to continue meeting the needs of the people of Tyne and Wear and its economy for years to come.
“The year ahead will see Nexus invest more than £22m between Byker and Tynemouth on projects including track replacement, renewing Victorian embankments and bridges, and modernising stations.
Ken Mackay, Director of Rail and Infrastructure for Nexus said: “The scale of the works leaves us with no choice but to close the line between Byker and Tynemouth for 23 days and over a number of weekends before that. Some stations will also need to close in the evening from 8pm.
“We know this will cause inconvenience, but the work cannot be done safely without closing lines, and the best way to do that is through a small number of concentrated blocks of work in one area at a time.”
Richard McClean, Managing Director at DB Regio Tyne and Wear, which operates stations and trains for Nexus, said: “This modernisation programme is the biggest to have been undertaken so far in Metro’s history.
“Naturally we regret the inconvenience caused to our passengers, but this is unavoidable when undertaking work of this scale and magnitude. I would ask passengers to bear with us and stress that the disruptions will be worth it in the end to keep Metro moving into the future.”
Details of work which will affect passengers include:
- A Major Line Closure of Metro between Byker and Tynemouth, from March 12 to April 3. A network of replacement bus services will be running.
- Weekend closures of the Metro line between Byker and Tynemouth on four weekends – 5-6 February, 12-13 February, 19-20 February and 26-27 February.
- Modernisation of Meadow Well, Howdon and Chillingham Road Metro stations, with partial closures for four months from March.
- North Shields Metro station building to be demolished and rebuilt from March onwards, with temporary entrances to platforms created during the building work.
- Night time working along all sections of the line which may involve some noise during the track replacement works.
- Further weekend closures in April following the Major Line Closure.
The work at North Shields Metro station, used by two million passengers a year, is a project costing £3m alone. The new station will have a bigger and better concourse building, lifts to platforms for the first time and an eye-catching new look with ‘floating wave’ canopies above platforms.
The current North Shields station building will be closed and demolished from March as the major line closure starts. The station will reopen at the end of major line closure with passengers using temporary entrances at the foot of the platforms.
Other stations on the route will be refurbished in stages over the next two years, improving lighting, waiting areas and passenger information.
Most of the work during the line closures involves the replacement of tracks, overhead power lines and signal systems, plus the strengthening of bridges and embankments some more than 160 years old.
A second Major Line Closure of 23 days will be needed in the next 12 months to continue the works.
More than 14,000 passengers a day use the line between Tynemouth and Byker. Most of the route was first used as a railway in 1838, making it one of the oldest dedicated commuter railway lines in the world.