Tyne & Wear

Tyne and Wear Metro expansion agreed

Metro sign
Image caption The Metro carries 40m passengers a year and is one of the busiest urban rail systems outside London

A plan to extend the Tyne and Wear Metro and spend £1bn on new trains and the existing system has been agreed.

Washington, Ashington, Peterlee and Gateshead's MetroCentre are among locations which could get a new Metro link.

The North East Combined Authority said the proposals needed government investment to become a reality.

The Department of Transport said it was already supporting Metro improvements and promised to meet passenger needs.

Newcastle City Council leader Nick Forbes said the proposal was an "ambitious strategy for expansion".

"Local rail brings huge economic and social benefits to the communities it reaches today, but we need to extend those benefits into new areas," he said.

Image caption The authority said any new routes depended on government funding

A network of disused or under-used rail routes across the region has been identified which could be used to extend the service using new trains.

The proposal includes spending an estimated £1bn on the existing Metro system trains, infrastructure and signalling over the next 20 years.

The new fleet is expected to be introduced in the early 2020s, Metro owners Nexus said.

The company is talking to the government about the cost of expansion and its funding and will submit a detailed business case before the end of this year, it said.

Image caption The Metro started running in 1980 and was officially opened in 1981 by the Queen

Combined Authority managing director for transport Tobyn Hughes said combining some local rail services with the Metro system on the same track could "create something new and better than the sum of those two parts".

Without investment, trains and infrastructure would be "harder and harder to maintain" leading to increased failures, he said.

Mr Forbes said the "well-publicised problems with train reliability on the system underline how essential it is to bring in a new train fleet".

Metro operations director Chris Carson said they had put "robust" plans into place for this year's Great North Run after massive delays during, and after, last year's race.

Local Metro, regional and national trains shared track for the first time when the route through Sunderland was opened in 2002.

More on this story

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites