The £385m Metro: all change modernisation programme is a public sector inward investment project providing a shot in the arm for the whole economy during challenging times.
NEXUS secured vital inward investment for the North East when the Government backed its plans to transform the iconic Tyne and Wear Metro system, used by 40million passengers a year.
Funding of up to £350m will be provided over the next 11 years to modernise and renew the existing network, allowing Nexus to begin an ambitious programme worth £385m in total.
The coalition Government affirmed its commitment to Metro: all change when the Chancellor George Osborne delivered his emergency budget last June, telling Parliament it was: “a project that will deliver substantial benefits to the economy.”
Nexus, the public body which owns Metro, is now pressing on with the job of delivering modernisation, which include new ‘smart’ ticket machines and electronic barriers, stations and train upgrades.
The vast majority of the money will, however, be spent on heavy engineering - rail infrastructure renewal works which involve the replacement or renewal of tracks, signals, structures and overhead lines.
The scale and ambition of Metro: all change can be summed up in the project to modernise the line between Byker and Tynemouth, where Nexus will be spending almost £600,000 a day during an unprecedented 23-day closure of the line in March and April.
While Metro opened in 1980 bridges, tunnels and embankments on this line date back to the 1830s, making it the oldest dedicated commuter railway in the world. Without urgent modernisation it would begin to decline or fail in only a few years with alarming consequences for local congestion and the viability of city centre business and public services.
By the end of the 2010/11 financial year Nexus will have invested an estimated £38m in capital projects on Metro in just 12 months – approaching three times any previous level of similar activity.
The scale of work simply could not be done by Nexus’ own staff, creating opportunities in engineering, construction and project management at a time when major capital investment projects in the region are few and far between – particularly from the public sector.
Bernard Garner, director-general of Nexus, describes Metro: all change as the most important investment programme since Metro opened 30 years ago – and one that will be of substantial benefit to the region’s economy.
Mr Garner said: “Every pound we spend on renewing Metro is worth up to £8 to the local economy in supporting city centre businesses, reducing congestion and driving workforce flexibility.
“Over the next decade Metro modernisation work that we procure will help to protect and create many hundreds of jobs in the construction, engineering and technology sectors.”