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Government backs Metro revamp

Nexus will use £300 million to upgrade and modernise 28-year-old Newcastle and Sunderland tram network

Major renewal works on the Tyne and Wear Metro will be up for grabs from next year following the announcement of £300 million worth of Government funding for the scheme.

Tyne and Wear Passenger Transport Executive Nexus will use the money to carry out what is known as Phase 2 of the works to upgrade the 28-year old tram network in Newcastle upon Tyne and Sunderland.

This includes modernising stations, creating a communication system, modernising overhead power lines, overhauling 160-year-old bridges and tunnels and refurbishing the 90 Metrocars that make up the train fleet.

Director of rail and infrastructure at Nexus Ken Mackay said: “Over the next nine years we’ll be spending more than four times the money annually that we have in the past and our own resources won’t be able to cope with that.

“We haven’t finalised any plans for work packages but we know we have to have the contracts in place so work can start in 2010.”

Construction is expected to take nine years and Mr Mackay said Nexus may be looking for a project delivery partner to assist with the management.

The in-house team at Nexus will continue to do the routine maintenance of the line.

During Phase 2 works Nexus will assess the future capacity demands of the system.

Mr Mackay said: “It’s difficult to tell now what demand will be like in 2019 when Phase 3 is due to start. There are all sorts of things to take into account, like the possibility of a more integrated bus service or congestion charging.”

The capacity increase could include longer trains, meaning extensive civils work to lengthen platforms and making stations more accessible.

Phase 1 of the job, worth £50 million, is already under way and is being done by Nexus itself. As part of this, a station opened in December at Simonside, while Haymarket station is being upgraded.

The Metro was last extended eight years ago with the addition of a 19 km route from Pelaw to South Hylton via Sunderland Central station. The main civils package on the job was carried out by Christiani & Nielsen before it went bust, with Skanska eventually completing the job.

Green light for Sunderland bridge

The Government has also announced its backing for a new bridge across the River Wear.

Sunderland City Council’s plans for the £103 million scheme include a four-lane bridge between Claxheugh and Castletown for road traffic, pedestrians and cyclists.

The Department for Transport will contribute £97.9 million and remaining funds will come from Sunderland City Council and regeneration company Sunderland Arc.

Detailed planning for the scheme can now go ahead and main construction is set to start in late 2011, with completion due in spring 2014.