Tom Keighley

Metro could be extended to Cobalt and Metrocentre

Metro bosses have drawn up several potential extensions to the network, including links to Cobalt Business Park, the Metrocentre, Doxford Park, Seaham and the West End of Newcastle.

New stations could also appear on existing parts of the line along with ‘tram’ services to some destinations.

The plans are part of the Metro strategy, set out by Nexus, the Integrated Transport Authority and its successor, the Combined Authority, and looks forward to 2030.

It also includes plans to buy a new fleet of trains with Wi-Fi access to update the current group which began operations in 1980 and have undergone two significant refurbishments.

The cost of this fleet and the associated upgrades to accommodate it is estimated to reach £389 million.

Funding for the project, including network extensions, will require direct grant support from the Government, and could comprise loans from bodies such as the European Investment Bank; and financing through fares.

The potential metro route extension, shown in red.

Bernard Garner, director General of Nexus, said: “We’ve developed a long-term strategy for Metro which explains how it will continue to play a vital role in providing sustainable transport vital to the region’s future prosperity. The key objective of the strategy is to secure a new fleet to replace the existing trains, which has been in use since 1980.

“It also identifies a number of new route corridors potentially suitable for Metro operation, using the most appropriate technology to meet the needs of each location. This could mean Metro or something similar, like street-running trams or high-quality bus routes.

“By 2021 the vast majority of Metro’s assets like track, bridges and drainage, will have been renewed to a condition that will ensure their effective operation decades into the future. The major exception to this is the train fleet, which is currently undergoing refurbishment that will extend its operating life for perhaps another ten years, following which a new fleet will be required to ensure the needs of future customer are met for up to 40 years beyond that.

“New trains will deliver several important benefits including improved accessibility and performance, better environmental performance and reduced energy consumption.

“The strategy outlines future possibilities to extend the current Metro network into new areas, reflecting more closely the commuting patterns of the new Combined Authority area.

“Further development of the feasibility of these broad corridors will be required in order to develop strong business cases, based on changes in future land-use and the scale and scope of any new development. Additional stations could also be provided at locations on the existing network adjacent to new housing or employment development where demand would justify this.”

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