The Tyne and Wear Metro’s new trains will not enter regular service until next year.
Passengers desperate to see the Metro’s ageing fleet finally replaced by a £362m set of modern, Swiss-built carriages will have to wait a little longer, after transport bosses confirmed a new delay to their arrival.
It had been hoped that the first of the new trains, three of which are already in the North East, would be ready to start carrying passengers by the end of this year.
But operator Nexus says that it will now only be able to complete a “short demonstration run” before 2023 is over, with the trains’ entry into the regular Metro timetable being pushed back to an unconfirmed target date in “early 2024”.
Originally, it had been expected that the 46 new Metro trains would be gradually introduced between summer 2023 and early 2025 as the existing fleet, which has served the North East for more than 40 years, is phased out.
But a report to councillors this week confirms that the project “has been recently re-set, with implementation of the new fleet now running around five months behind the original schedule”.
It adds: “The aim is for the first run in customer service to take place by end of 2023, however this is planned to be a short demonstration run only with a more consistent customer service provided early 2024.”
The first new Metro train arrived at the Gosforth depot in February this year. But that was a couple of months later than planned and Nexus has indicated that delay has had a knock-on effect for local testing and driver training that must be completed before the units enter service.
Wider factors including inflation levels and the war in Ukraine are also understood to have contributed to delays in the delivery of parts for the new fleet, which is being built in Switzerland by manufacturing giant Stadler.
Metro users have been told they can expect major improvements once the new trains are ready.
As well as being far more reliable than the current carriages, they also boast modern features like air conditioning, USB charging points, and an automatic sliding step at every door.
Nexus’ head of the fleet and depot replacement programme, Michael Richardson, said: “Our first new trains entering service will be a landmark moment for the Tyne and Wear Metro. We appreciate customers will be looking forward to the introduction of the new trains but it is going to take a bit longer than planned.
“This is the biggest project in our history, one which everyone at Nexus is working tirelessly to deliver. Our fleet programme has recently undergone a reset due to recent global events and supply chain issues.
“We are working closely with our partners at Stadler in order to get the first three units ready for customers as soon as possible. A further two new trains are set to arrive from the Stadler factory before the end of the year.
“The new Class 555 Stadler train is a bespoke design for Metro and as such it requires rigorous testing along with detailed training for our teams. A total of 90,000 individual tests are required, with checks on everything from seats and windscreen wipers, to more big-ticket items like brakes, CCTV, doors, wheels, and the power supply.
“A total of 19,000 hours of training time is required across 480 employees. The first few trains also need to complete 37,000 kilometres of running and there are also 22,000 standards and clauses to comply with.
“It’s imperative that the testing process is concluded thoroughly so that the new trains work safely and interface seamlessly with our 60 stations and 77 kilometres of track. When these new trains enter service they will be transformative for our customers and our employees, bringing in a step change in comfort, quality and reliability.”