The temporary Tyne and Wear Metro depot at Howdon in North Tyneside has officially become operational following the completion of work to create a new facility on a former landfill site. The depot will be used initially for the maintenance of up to a quarter of the current fleet while the main facility at South Gosforth is rebuilt for the new fleet of trains.
The depot will also be used to “on-track” the new Metro trains which are to be built by Stadler in Switzerland. The first of these are expected to be delivered in 2022 and will arrive by rail from mainland Europe via the Channel Tunnel with their first port of call on the network being at Howdon.
Work on upgrading the current South Gosforth Depot is now underway with this expected to increase during 2021 and take four years in total. During this work the depot will take a reduced role in the overnight maintenance of the trains which is where Howdon Depot comes in as it will be used for up to a quarter of the total fleet each night.
A total of 11 new lines, totalling 1.5km have been installed at Howdon along with 13 new track junctions and 1,000 sleepers. Work on the new depot has taken around a year.
Neil Blagburn, Metro Development Director, said: “We now have a dedicated facility to welcome the new Metro trains from 2022. Howdon is also a vital satellite depot for up to a quarter of the current fleet while we build the new main depot at Gosforth. It’s a small but important step towards getting the new Metro trains. When they roll off the production line in Switzerland they will be transported here by rail and Howdon will be the point where they are delivered on to our network before testing and training gets underway. We are investing £70m on a totally new main depot at Gosforth. That reconstruction process starts in earnest next year, so we need Howdon to help us with that transitioning process. It’s a huge amount of investment in Metro and it gives it a really bright future which promises to be transformational for our customers and our workforce.”
Rob Baxter, Managing Director of Stadler Rail Service Ltd, added: “The completion of Howdon depot takes us one step closer along the journey to deliver new trains in a couple of years’ time. Despite the challenges that 2020 has brought, we have achieved a lot this year, including signing the contract with Nexus, transferring all the depot staff to our business, and starting work to re-build Gosforth depot. With this project now well underway, we look forward to continued working with Nexus and our local stakeholders and suppliers in 2021 and beyond.”
The new train fleet and depot will cost £362 million of which £337 million has come from the Government. With Stadler having signed a contract for the ongoing maintenance of the fleet over 35 years it is expected the total investment will be £700 million on transforming the Metro for the future.