A public consultation to help design the next generation of Metrocars for the Tyne and Wear Metro has been presented to MPs at a parliamentary reception in Westminster.
Last year, Nexus, which owns Metro, launched an ambitious £1 billion bid to help fund a new generation of trains plus associated infrastructure that will meet the needs of customers for decades to come.
As part of this, Nexus asked experts at Newcastle University’s Open Lab to lead a series of events at which the public were challenged to help design the Metrocars of the future.
Considering questions around seating layouts, space for prams and wheelchairs and facilities such as wifi and passenger information, the researchers held drop-in ‘pop-up labs’ across the region, ran workshops with schools and encouraged people to share their ideas on the Metro Futures website.
Local people were also invited to join the consultation process in a series of four design weekly workshops, where they recorded and shared their experiences of using Metro, agreed important issues for consideration in new trains and developed ideas to address them.
Highlights from the consultation included London Underground-style linear seating, more room for luggage and wheelchairs, and real time travel information on trains and platforms.
There were also suggestions for solar panels on trains, space for bikes and even "some way of defining the middle of the double seat, because some people take more than their fair share."
Dr Simon Bowen, who is leading Newcastle University's contribution to the project, said:
“It’s the people who use Metro - and also those who don’t – who are best placed to tell us what works and what doesn’t.
“For example, should there be somewhere for bags? What are the issues when travelling with prams or wheelchairs? How accessible is Metro for older people?
“The Westminster audience seemed really impressed with the consultation process and the insights that resulted from it and we are very grateful to everyone who gave up their time and ideas to take part in the process."
40 million passengers a year
The Tyne and Wear Metro is the busiest urban rail system outside London, carrying 40 million passengers a year, and has used the same fleet of trains since it opened in 1980.
Nexus is seeking to replace the Metrocar fleet as the central part of a £1 billion investment programme over the next two decades.
Tobyn Hughes, Managing Director of Nexus, said:
“A new Metrocar fleet is essential to the future of Metro, and ranks as one of the most important projects we have led.
“These new trains will be serving our communities for several decades so we wanted to involve local people as much as possible in the design process, thinking not just about how they might use trains now, but through their whole lives.”
Newcastle City Futures
Science Central, a partnership between Newcastle University, Newcastle City Council and L&G Capital, is a £350m urban regeneration project, the largest of its kind in the UK and a test bed for innovation and sustainability. As well as the USB, the site will house the £40m National Innovation Centre for Ageing, the £30m National Innovation Centre for Data, the £20m National Centre for Energy Systems Integration and the £11.2m UKCRIC integrated infrastructure labs and urban observatory.
The Metro Futures project is part of Newcastle City Futures, a partnership led by Newcastle University which brings together businesses, academics, government, community organisations and the public to consider the challenges facing Newcastle over the next 50 years.
The reception, hosted by Nick Brown MP, was also attended by passenger organisations and transport providers, who were able to discuss the findings of the consultation with the researchers.
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