Reopening of Metro line between South Shields and Pelaw delayed again after three-month shutdown
Metro passengers in South Tyneside will have to wait even longer to see trains return to their stations after an overrunning upgrade project was hit by another setback.
The reopening of the Tyne and Wear Metro line between Pelaw and South Shields has been delayed again, transport bosses confirmed on Friday 9 December.
It is three months since the route was shut down - the longest and biggest closure in the Metro's 42-year history, for £104m improvement works that will increase its capacity.
Services had been due to resume on 4 December, before being pushed back to a target date of December 12 while engineers completed final tests on the upgraded section of the network.
But Metro operator Nexus has now revealed that the work on the 'Flow' project will still not be done in time, with the return of trains to and from South Shields now penciled in for next Wednesday 14 December.
The latest delay to the scheme, which started in mid-September, has been blamed on extra time being needed to complete the final phase of works on the overhead lines.
The closure has meant that passengers who travel from Hebburn, Jarrow, Bede, Simonside, Tyne Dock, Chichester, and South Shields stations have had to use a replacement bus to get as far as Heworth before getting on the Metro.
Major projects director at Nexus, Cathy Massarella, said: "We will have Metro services back up and running between Pelaw and South Shields on Wednesday morning (14 December).
"The bulk of the works on the new tracks and signals are finished along the 4.6km stretch, but we need to extend for the final few pieces of work on the overhead power lines, which we need to get done right so that we can run the trains.
"We understand customers are frustrated that this major £104m renewal programme has been extended again and we're sorry for the inconvenience and disruption this causes.
"Metro Flow involves converting a freight line for Metro trains with both sharing the track in the future. It is essential we do not rush the re-opening, so we must complete the new overhead lines, which are essential so that Metro trains have the high voltage power they need to operate.
"Our frequent replacement bus service will remain in place for customers. This includes a bus that calls at all Metro stations on the route and a rapid express bus that runs from Heworth straight to Jarrow and South Shields."
The long-planned improvement works are intended to make Metro trains more reliable and enable extra services to run, with passengers outside of the rail system's central areas soon able to expect a train every 10 minutes rather than every 12.
This has been done by upgrading and electrifying an infrequently used freight line so both Metro and freight trains can share the route, dualling three pinch-point areas of single track that have been a source of delays.
On top of the disruption caused by the Metro Flow works, services to Sunderland have also been hit by problems in recent weeks due to damage caused by flooding at an electrical substation in Pallion.
It means there are no trains between Park Lane and South Hylton until at least 2023 and a reduced, 24-minute service is operating between Pelaw and Park Lane.
The Metro will also be disrupted by planned national rail strikes over the coming weeks.
While Nexus staff are not on strike, trains are not able to run between Pelaw and South Hylton on strike days because this stretch of line is part of the national rail network which is owned and managed by Network Rail.