Tens of thousands of detailed tests are taking place to get the new Tyne and Wear Metro train fleet ready for customer service, in what is one of the most important projects in the network’s history.
Stadler, the Swiss train building company, is working with Metro operator, Nexus, on this latest phase of the £362m programme, known as testing and commissioning, which covers nearly every single component on the trains.
It’s in the early hours of the morning the teams are out there carrying out scores of different tests in what is the biggest project on Metro since the system was built in the late 1970s.
A total of 90,000 individual tests are required, with checks on everything, from seats and windscreen wipers, to more big-ticket items like brakes, CCTV, doors, wheels, and power supply.
There are 19,000 hours of training time, with the first few trains completing 37,000 kilometres of running. There are 22,000 standards and clauses to comply with and 480 staff to train up.
The testing process is to ensure that the new trains work safely and seamlessly with Metro’s 60 stations and 77 kilometres of track.
All of the on-board customer information systems need to be checked and be working correctly, along with the emergency settings and fail-safe systems.
Power consumption, ride quality, and performance reliability are all being scrutinised thoroughly.
The testing process has been ongoing since the first three Stadler trains arrived in North East England in March. This started with some basic functionality testing within the depot and first trains started to be tested on our Nexus network in May 2023. It involves the same level of detail that a big car manufacturer undertakes when bringing a new model to the market, Nexus said.
Interim Managing Director at Nexus, Cathy Massarella, said: “Testing is really detailed and it’s absolutely critical to get the new Stadler trains ready for customer service.
“We are leaving no stone unturned in what is probably the biggest and most important project since the Metro system was first built.
“Everything on the train needs to be tested and checked thoroughly and this is something that we are doing in conjunction with our colleagues at Stadler.
“There is great attention to detail. It’s very much like the testing that a big car company undertakes when it’s preparing to unveil a new model. The trains need to be put through their paces to ensure that they are ready for daily service.
“These trains are a world away from the current fleet. They have digital technology and much of the testing can be done by plugging a laptop computer into the trains’ onboard computer system.”
She added: “Our customers won’t see the new trains running around the network as the testing is currently being undertaken between midnight and the early hours when the network is closed. However, there will be testing in daylight hours later this year.
“Thousands of inspection criteria need to be met, and fault free running targets achieved before Nexus officially accepts the trains and we put the first one into service.
“All of the teams involved in testing are working tirelessly. It’s a historic project for Metro to bring a new fleet of trains into service and we are making sure we get everything right.
“The Stadler trains are going to be transformative, and we are really excited to get them into service. They have been shaped by customers, employees, trade unions and specialist user groups. We believe this to have been the most far-reaching consultation yet staged into a new train design. Over 23,000 customer responses have helped to shape the design.”
Claudius Oblasser, Technical Project Manager at Stadler, said: “Testing and commissioning is a critical stage in the production of new trains. It sees thousands of safety and performance tests carried out to make sure they are ready for service and compatible with the infrastructure they will operate on. We use this period to iron out faults and stress-test the trains to enable them to perform well for decades to come.”
The first five new trains will each need to complete 10,000 kilometres of fault free running before they are ready for handover.
Some of the key functionality testing includes:
• Driver cab
• Passenger alarms
• Doors, train horn, windscreen wipers, air conditioning
• Radio systems
• Information screens
• Emergency evacuation
• Ride comfort
• Passenger emergency intercom
• Infrastructure interface – platforms, signals and power supply
• The automatic sliding step
• Power consumption
• Emergency braking
• Traction performance (reliability)
• Lighting (interior and exterior)
• Seats, hand rails and grab poles
• Battery technology
Stadler are building a total of 46 new Metro trains on behalf of Nexus.
The fleet will enter service in phases and the aim is to have all the new trains in service in 2025.
Stadler has delivered three new trains to North East England so far, and more are set to arrive later this year.
The Class 555 Stadler train is a unique design for Metro and rigorous testing ensures that it interfaces correctly with signalling systems and other infrastructure.
Metro drivers will also undertake a process of training at the controls of the new train.
The new trains have been designed and shaped by customers, and in response to vast consultation will include modern features such as linear seating, charging points, air conditioning and will deliver a step-change in accessibility.
Among the new features will be an automatic sliding step at every door to enable seamless boarding, making travel easier for Metro’s 50,000 wheelchair passengers as well as people with children’s buggies, luggage or bicycles.
Photo credit: Tyne and Wear Metro