First look at new £362million Metro fleet as Minister hails 'bright new chapter' for service
Metro passengers are set for a ‘new bright chapter’ with the arrival of the service’s new trains.
That was the message from Transport Minister Richard Holden as he joined guests at Nexus’ Gosforth depot for a look at the first of the new arrivals.
"Today marks a bright new chapter for passengers in Tyne and Wear and the North East who will benefit from some of the most modern metro trains in the country,” he said.
"These sleek new trains will offer cleaner, smoother and more reliable journeys as we leave no stone unturned to boost clean travel, level up transport and grow the economy.”
What to expect from the new Metro trains
A select few future passengers were treated to a look around a brand new Stadler Class 555 on Friday.
Two of the £362million fleet of new carriages have now been delivered to the North East, with another 44 on the way by 2025.
It will be some time yet before any enter service, however, with Metro operator Nexus saying it now hopes to see the first of them pulling into stations by the end of this year.
But a tour of a gleaming new train on Friday morning offered a welcome glimpse into the network’s future.
It was unveiled at the celebration event at the Metro’s Gosforth depot on Friday that welcomed passengers who helped shape the carriages’ design, local politicians and business leaders, and North East firms that have supplied parts and technology for the fleet.
The new trains boast a wealth of upgrades that will make them feel “space age” compared to the current stock, which has been running for more than 40 years.
Perhaps most important of all, they should be vastly more reliable and less prone to breakdowns – and have on-board batteries that mean they can keep moving in the event of an overhead line failure.
Another key difference that passengers will immediately notice is the change in seating layout – with the London Tube-style linear seating replacing the current Metro layout and making carriages a far more spacious environment.
Other key new features on board include air conditioning, which will come as relief in the summer months, and USB charging ports.
The trains also have an automatic sliding step at every door to allow “seamless boarding” for the Metro’s 50,000 wheelchair passengers, as well as people with buggies, luggage or bikes.
Friday morning’s tour also offered a first look at colourful local artwork that decorates each train.
Each train is fitted with 42 CCTV cameras which can be monitored live from the driver’s cabin, which it is hoped will help combat anti-social behaviour.
Full 4G and 5G coverage on the network is also planned, after Metro chiefs scrapped plans for WiFi on the service due to costs.
The new trains, built by Stadler in Switzerland, have been purpose-designed in response to a consultation exercise which saw more than 23,000 people offer their views. The first will enter operation by the end of the year.
Nexus managing director Martin Kearney was getting his first look at the train after it was fully commissioned.
“We are at the beginning of an exciting new era for transport in North East England,” he said.
"The Stadler trains are going to be transformative and we are really excited to get them all into service for our customers.
"Stadler are a world-class train manufacturer. What they are delivering are trains with the very latest modern technology, which is a massive leap from our current 43-year-old fleet.
"The hard work starts now to get the trains ready to go into service. The new trains will have to go through a phase of rigorous testing on our network and all our drivers will need to undertake a period of train handling experience during the implementation phase of the project.”