THE Metro could be expanded to new parts of the region after transport bosses unveiled a decade worth of expansion plans.
New city centre trams could be introduced as part of long-term plans being considered by the Tyne and Wear Integrated Transport Authority.
Nine new lines, a mixture of trains, trams and special bus routes, are to be put before the board next week, with members being told they have a “once in a generation” opportunity to radically change the future of the rail system.
The plans include the potential for a new tram train line travelling from Newcastle city centre to the west end, a section of Tyneside not connected to the Metro system.
Large parts of Tyne and Wear are currently not served by Metro, with transport chiefs at the authority commissioning an independent review to address this over the next 10 years.
It is hoped the business case for the new trains, as well as reopening some tracks, will be put together by 2013, in advance of Government plans to start the bidding process for new major infrastructure projects in 2014.
But with Government funding no longer guaranteed, the transport authority will either have to lead a strong and lengthy lobbying operation or find a way of bringing in private sector cash.
Yesterday Transport Secretary Philip Hammond said the local enterprise partnerships set up between councils and business leaders will have a stronger say over how regional rail cash is spent.
Last night South Tyneside Council leader Iain Malcolm, who has led the fight for North East road investment, said transport links were “vital to our economic growth”.
But he added: “There must be adequate funds allocated from central Government to ensure major schemes can connect local people and communities to jobs.
“High quality transport infrastructure will make the North East a more attractive place to invest. However, we must avoid some of the lengthy delays experienced by some recent transport schemes, and hold contractors to account to ensure schemes are high quality, delivered on time and to budget.”
Arup, the consultants carrying out the review, will look at what new technologies can be used for “the next generation of Metro network”, including hopes of eventually buying train-trams to replace the current railway stock.
Last year the service was awarded £300m by the Government for upgrade work in exchange for bringing in private operators DB Regio to run Metro trains.
Bernard Garner, director general of Nexus, said: “The benefits of Metro are clear and we would like to extend those benefits to new parts of Tyne and Wear where it would benefit the whole economy to do so.
“This is not only a study into the potential networks of future decades, but also the types of technologies that might suit them best.”