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Home People Metro workers remember 'Thunder Thursday' ten years on

Metro workers remember ‘Thunder Thursday’ ten years on

Metro workers have recalled their battle to restore services after the super cell storm dubbed ‘Thunder Thursday’ shut the network ten years ago.

The storm – which hit North East England suddenly on the afternoon of June 28, 2012 – brought the entire Metro system to a halt after stations and large sections of track were flooded.

Despite the scale of the damage the Metro was back up and running by 6am the next morning thanks to the efforts of an army of staff who worked around the clock to get it fixed.

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Engineers worked through the night removing debris, recovering stricken trains, and repairing damaged equipment.

The torrential rain and thunderstorm closed roads right across the region, making the Metro repair operation even more challenging. Many staff were unable to get back into work, and many were unable to go home.

Haymarket and Monument stations were closed because of severe flooding in Newcastle city centre.

A torrent of water caused a wall to collapse on the Metro line between Felling and Heworth. The tracks below were completely submerged and were left looking more like a canal than a railway line.

Metro tracks were also deluged at Regent Centre and Shiremoor, with the tops of the rails under water, making it impossible for trains to operate.

A total of 17 stranded trains needed to be recovered that night, and customers were advised they would have to find alternative modes of travel.

The underpass at West Jesmond Metro station filled up with flood water and ended up resembling a swimming pool.

Head of Engineering at Nexus (which oversees the Metro), Brian Wilson, said: “The Metro suffered an unprecedented amount of damage on Thunder Thursday. It was the quickest we have ever seen severe weather force us to close the whole network.

“Our staff put in a heroic effort and many extra hours to get the service back on by the next day.

“There was widespread flooding of lines in multiple locations. The worst scene was at Felling, where water cascaded down on to the tracks and a large stone wall collapsed.

“Once the flood water had receded our teams had to go out and clear all of the debris and repair the flood damage to make it safe for operations to resume.

“There were trains stuck in the wrong places and many of them had suffered water damage that needed work back at the depot.

“The rain was so severe it even flooded part of our offices in Gosforth. I was unable to get home that night and many staff were unable to get into work to assist us.

“We set up a special incident room so we could co-ordinate our response and get all the repairs done as fast as possible. Many staff worked late and many more came in to help. It was a real team effort during a crisis.”

John Eagle was a Signalling Supervisor who was on call on the day of the storm.

He said: “I was first sent to the worst hit area up at Felling as it’s near to where I Iive. The water appeared to have flooded nearby houses and come out the back lane and cascaded down the Metro embankment.  The pressure had obviously built up on the wall and it had collapsed.

“The most positive thing was the way that our customers reacted. Everyone realised how severe it was and that it was beyond anyone’s control.

“For us it was a case of all hands to the pumps to the get the lines back open as quickly as we possibly could. The way the staff all pulled together was unbelievable. It was a brilliant effort.

“It was the worst weather event we have dealt with in terms of the sheer volume of water that flooded the network.”

Dave Wylie was one of the staff who worked on the repairs at Felling in the aftermath of the deluge, with works going through to the early hours of the following day.

He said: “I had been able to get into work that day because I live in Northumberland and the roads weren’t that badly affected.

“When I got to the Metro line at Felling it was a scene of devastation. There was so much flood water you could barely see the track. As well as all of the water there was all manner of debris from the collapsed wall.

“Once the flood water had subsided we were able to get on track and start the clean-up operation. In places we were moving the stones and bricks by hand. It was a hard slog but we got it done by the early hours. The weight of the water had brought a lot of material down on to the line. We also used a small mechanical digger to clear the site as well as working by hand.

“It was a memorable night and it was great job by everyone involved.”

As well as closing the entire Metro system, Thunder Thursday’ left the Central Motorway in Newcastle flooded and grid-locked.

Lightning struck the Tyne Bridge, flooding closed the Tyne Tunnel, power cuts left over 23,000 homes without power and trains north of Newcastle were cancelled after a landslide on the East Coast Mainline.

Parts of Newcastle were flooded by water feet deep at rush hour. Water cascaded down Dean Street and Castle Stairs towards the Tyne after a drain cover was forced off.

The region’s biggest shopping centre, the MetroCentre in Gateshead, was forced to evacuate and Eldon Square in Newcastle closed, as did the Hoppings Fair on the nearby Town Moor. The nearby A1 Western Bypass was closed for a time.

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