The first group of eight Tyne and Wear Metro drivers from the Metro Futures Traincrew Specialist Team have undertaken familiarisation runs with a Class 555 train at the Velim test track in the Czech Republic. The drivers were accompanied by Stadler engineers on the facility’s smaller 4km (2.5-mile) test ring. 
Nexus, the passenger transport authority which owns and manages the Metro, said the test runs mark a significant moment for the GBP362m (EUR407m) project ahead of the first new train arriving in North-East England. Passenger service is due to begin in the autumn. 
The Swiss manufacturer is building 46 new five-car trains at its factory in St. Margarethen, Switzerland. The 59.9m units promise up to 30% improvements in energy efficiency – using onboard energy storage and enhanced regenerative braking – greater capacity (up to 600 passengers per train), onboard CCTV, air-conditioning, USB charging points and automatic sliding steps at all eight doors to improve accessibility. 
Designed through consultation with Nexus staff, the new drivers’ console features adaptive traction control alongside built-in rail sanding to cope with the toughest autumn and winter conditions. 
Craig Pearson, a Traincrew Specialist with ten years’ driving experience, was the first to take the controls of the new Class 555. He commented: “The technology that these new trains offer us are going to be transformative and are a world away from the old fleet. 
“Everything is at your fingertips in the new drivers’ cab. The layout is better and the computerised control systems are amazing. It’s a huge jump from analogue to digital technology.” 
The Velim facility has a 4km loop which is being used to test the new Stadler Metro trains. Nexus 
Nexus’ Head of Fleet and Depot Replacement, Michael Richardson, added: “We currently have 177 drivers who need to undergo training on the new fleet. Everyone will get time in the special simulator ahead of driving one of the new trains on our network for real.” 
Stadler’s contract with Nexus includes including maintenance of the new fleet for 35 years and disposal of the system’s original Metrocars as well as construction of a new depot at Gosforth. The main works on this GBP70m (EUR80m) facility were completed in late 2022, with the original depot and workshop closing on 19 January. 
> Tramways & Urban Transit carried a detailed two-part special to mark 40 years of the Tyne and Wear Metro in October and November 2020 (issues 994 and 995). Get your copies by contacting us. 
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