January 28, 2020 @ 12:52 by Steven Hugill
Tyne and Wear Metro bosses have agreed a Swiss supply deal worth a potential £700 million to overhaul its train fleet.
Stadler will supply 42 trains for the transport network and build a new depot in the region to service and maintain the rolling stock for up to 35 years.
The announcement means County Durham-based trainbuilder Hitachi Rail – which had bid for the contract – has missed out on the work, a decision branded an “outrage” by Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen.
Under the terms of the deal, Swiss-headquartered Stadler will deliver the trains over the next five years, with its new depot – set for South Gosforth – expected to provide work for around 100 people and support scores of jobs in the construction phase.
Bosses say Nexus – the public body which owns and operates Metro – has entered into a £300 million contract with Stadler, as part of a £362 million investment, but added the deal could rise to £700 million over a 35-year period depending on performance.
Furthermore, they say the initial 42-strong order could be increased to 46 if Nexus’ plans to increase the frequency of services secure Government funding.
Stadler runs its UK operations out of Liverpool through its Stadler Rail Service UK Limited subsidiary, and has previous experience of supplying trains for Glasgow’s metro link.
It also has a deal to replace ageing stock on the Merseyrail network, with its first trains due to enter service on North West lines this year.
Tobyn Hughes, Nexus managing director, said such work makes Stadler a great partner, adding the new rolling stock will be 15 times more reliable that its existing fleet and cut high-voltage power consumption by 30 per cent.
He also said the trains (pictured left in an artist’s impression) will benefit from WiFi connection, charging points, air conditioning and automatic sliding steps, which will make it easier for wheelchair users, cyclists and passengers with buggies and luggage to board.
“Our passengers expect the best in the world when they travel, and that is what they will get from our new trains,” said Tobyn.
“Stadler has an excellent track record building new trains for cities and regions across the world.
“The company will put in place new supply chains here in North East England and the UK securing local jobs.
“We asked for the best trains for the best price – based on what local people said they wanted to see, providing excellent reliability for years to come, transforming the passenger experience and delivering huge energy savings.
“Stadler has delivered on all fronts, and we look forward to working with our new partner and the extensive UK supply chain, which will support them not just to build new trains but maintain them over the next 35 years.”
Ansgar Brockmeyer, Stadler director of sales, added: “The contract with Nexus represents an important milestone for Stadler in Great Britain.
“After Glasgow and Liverpool, this is the third metro operator to opt for a Stadler vehicle.
“We look forward to working with Nexus and our suppliers in North East England.”
Confirmation of Stadler’s deal comes after Nexus bosses were last year forced to deny reports they had already agreed a deal that would see Hitachi Rail miss out on the work.
At the time, Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen criticised the company for not selecting a local supplier, and he has now written to Nexus to “express his outrage” at the decision to hand the contract to Stadler.
In a letter addressed to Tobyn Hughes, Mayor Houchen says he finds it “completely perverse” that Hitachi Rail was not awarded the contract, given Britain’s impending EU departure.
He said: “I find it appalling that you have come to a decision which fails to protect a major North East business and local jobs.
“You have taken a decision that will have significant and detrimental, long-term consequences for the North East and its workers.”