New Metro trains: Will ticket prices go up and will they improve journey times? Nexus answers your questions as new fleet revealed
As Metro operator Nexus reveals designs for a brand new fleet of trains set to be built by Swiss firm Stadler, here are the answers to all your questions on how the changes will affect passengers.
This also includes construction led by Nexus of a satellite depot at Howdon, North Tyneside, and wider project costs and contingencies.
Here is what Nexus had to say in answer to some of the key questions from passengers.
Will the new trains improve punctuality?
Yes – The new trains will be around 15 times more reliable the current, ageing, fleet.
That will slash the number of times trains fail in service.
The new more open interior layout will also speed-up rush hour boarding, reducing minor delays.
Will the service improve overnight?
New trains will arrive one-by-one from 2022, a few weeks’ apart, but because each one will be much more reliable passengers will quickly feel the difference, as well as enjoying features like air conditioning, better accessibility and information, WiFi and USB charging points.
Will ticket prices go up to pay for the new trains?
No – This £362m capital investment in Metro’s future is funded by the Government through a £337m grant, and money Nexus has set aside.
Ticket sales meanwhile help Nexus pay for the day-to-day cost of Metro.
How much more energy efficient will they be?
Nexus estimate the new trains will cut the amount of high voltage power Metro needs by 30%, because they use modern, more efficient motors and are able to regenerate energy back into the overhead wires.
That’s enough electricity to power every home in Tynemouth, for example.
What has been done to improve access for disabled passengers?
The new Metro trains will have an automatic step that will deploy at every door to close the gap with the platform, and four dedicated wheelchair spaces for the 50,000 people who make unsupported wheelchair journeys with us every year.
These are the most significant features, but the trains have been designed throughout with the needs of disabled passengers, and through consultation with them.
Features like special lighting at doors, audio-visual displays and the location of grab poles will all help.
Will mobility scooters be allowed on board?
No, however Nexus has said it will review this question when the new fleet is delivered.
Mobility scooters are banned from Metro now because their larger turning circle (compared to wheelchairs) and braking systems make them unsafe on both stations and trains.
Will the new trains have space for bicycles?
Yes – there will be new multi-use space where it will be easy to store bikes, larger luggage and prams and buggies.
This will incorporate perch pads for passengers to lean on at other times.
Will the new trains be better able to deal with the dreaded ‘low rail adhesion’ and ‘leaves on the line’?
Yes – Nexus has said this will have additional measures fitted to cope with this common railway problem.
Will the new trains have a larger capacity than the old?
Yes – The maximum capacity of each new full-length train will be 600 people compared with the 524 passenger capacity of the existing trains.
They will also be much easier to move around in and to use with items like wheelchairs, children’s buggies, bikes and heavy luggage thanks to the open-plan design passengers asked for.
Will the new trains improve journey times?
The new trains give Nexus the potential to improve journey times albeit there are no firm plans to do so at present on the basis that the short gaps between stations means it’s not practical to go faster than they do today.
The new trains will be 15 times more reliable than the current, ageing fleet, so the big benefit for journey times is consistency.
Will the timetable change?
We hope so – Nexus is bidding for Government funding for a £110m upgrade of track and signalling called the Metro Flow Project, so they can operate more frequent services across the system.
If this happens they will order four extra trains from Stadler on top of our initial 42.
Nexus will also be able to extend the hours of service to and from South Shields when the new trains arrive, as some will be stabled at the new learning centre there.
Does this mean that new routes are possible? Could the Metro to Washington finally become a reality?
Nexus are making a separate business case to win Government funding for new routes.
Having a new train fleet helps – and the new trains will be more flexible.
On-board battery technology could allow trains to travel for 45 minutes without needing overhead power, which will make expansion of Metro easier and more affordable.