Transport bosses say they haven’t ruled out the possibility of extending the Metro to Seaham.
Tobyn Hughes, managing director at Nexus, told members of the North East Combined Authority (NECA) this morning the prospect of branching out further down the coast was still a potential option for the future.
And speaking at NECA’s Overview and Scrutiny Committee, he hinted work could start when a new fleet of trains begins running in late 2021.
Referring to his time as a councillor for East Durham, panel chairman David Taylor-Gooby asked: “We were always talking about extending the Metro line, to Seaham [for example], are these issue on the agenda or not?”
Mr Hughes replied: “Yes, they’re on the agenda, although they’re a matter for the combined authority, which will need to review its transport strategy, but there’s no reason to think that they wouldn’t.
“In July, the combined authority approved a strategy setting out how we would extend the Metro system, in isolation and alongside the local rail network and a series of pieces of work are being undertaken now.
“It looks some way off, but it’s not off the radar.
“Getting a new fleet was the priority, but there’s a number of new funding opportunities coming up which may be appropriate.
“Expanding the Metro system is on the agenda of pretty much everyone in the area.”
Nexus announced in January it had started a £362m project to upgrade its 90 trains.
The new fleet is expected to be made up of just 42 trains – less than half the current number.
However, bosses have promised these will be bigger and more reliable, meaning the overall capacity of the Tyne and Wear service is not expected to change.
Crucially, Nexus has also insisted the new generation of transporters will be easier to adapt to existing part of the rail network.
Mr Hughes added: “The new fleet is a key enabler.
“The specification is that it would be capable of going beyond the existing Metro network.
“It will have a battery in each train.
“Range will initially be quite modest, but as [the technology] improves so will the range of the trains to go further without electrification.”
James Harrison , Local Democracy Reporting Service