Transport chiefs say new Metro fleet announcement due this month amid war of words over Hitachi

Final designs for the new Tyne and Wear Metro trains are still set to be unveiled this month, despite being delayed by the general election.

Sunday, 12th January 2020, 12:09 am
Nexus is moving on with the process of buying a new train fleet.
Nexus is moving on with the process of buying a new train fleet.

Nexus says it does expect to reveal details of its new-look fleet, and name the company that will build it, later in January.

A report to regional transport bosses reveals that confirmation of £337million Government funding for the new trains was due to come through in December, but had to be pushed back to this month because of delays caused by the general election.

The new trains will feature air conditioning, Tube-style linear seating to increase capacity, wider doors and aisles, and digital upgrades such as WiFi connectivity and charging points.

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The final shortlist of three firms bidding for a £500million contract to build and maintain the new fleet is made up of Spanish firm CAF, Swiss company Stadler, and Japanese manufacturer Hitachi.

Nexus’ search for a train builder has been mired in controversy, amid a bitter political row over reports that Hitachi will miss out on the contract.

Ben Houchen, the Conservative mayor of the Tees Valley, has repeatedly slammed the rail operator for not ensuring the Metro fleet is built at Hitachi’s Newton Aycliffe factory, making scathing remarks about the impact it may have on job losses.

But Nexus and Labour council leaders in Tyne and Wear have pointed out that it would be illegal show favouritism to Hitachi because of its local links, and say that pausing or restarting their search would cost millions and delay the much-needed replacement of Metro’s increasingly unreliable trains.

It was announced on Thursday that around 250 jobs are under threat at Hitachi Rail’s North East base, with Mr Houchen laying blame for that at Nexus’ door.

But the rail operator said Hitachi had assured them the job losses are “not linked to their bid to supply new trains for the Tyne and Wear Metro”.

Newcastle city council leader Nick Forbes added: “Any job losses in the region are devastating and there are bound to be knock on effects across the supply chain following Hitachi’s announcement.

“However, Ben Houchen knows his statements are not accurate. He has been repeatedly told by Nexus that no decision has been made regarding the contract and Hitachi themselves have confirmed this announcement is not related.

“This is a desperate attempt to deflect from his own Government’s failings in the North.”

According to a report to the North East Joint Transport Committee, Nexus will make a decision on the winning bid “immediately” after it receives confirmation of the Government’s funding.

A Nexus spokesman said: “We will unveil the detailed designs of our new Metro trains and the company which will make them for us later this month.”