COMMUTERS face weeks of travel chaos after a hole appeared beside a busy Metro track.
Trains were suspended between Benton and Shiremoor when the track suffered serious subsidence east of Northumberland Park station, North Tyneside, on Wednesday night.
Last night, transport bosses at Nexus said the disruption was likely to last several weeks while old mine workings uncovered by the subsidence were filled in.
Dozens of workers were on site yesterday, including teams from Network Rail and mining engineers.
About 10,000 people a day use the service to Northumberland Park, which opened almost two years ago to cater for the redevelopment of that part of North Tyneside, which now has a major housing estate and a Sainsbury’s supermarket.
The hole is thought to have been caused by redundant mine workings not previously detected by surveys.
The Metro in this area runs on tracks that have been in use for more than 100 years.
Passengers were being advised yesterday to allow extra time for their journeys, with a replacement bus service running between Four Lane Ends and Shiremoor stations, calling at all stations in between.
Extra trains will also operate between Shiremoor and St James via Wallsend to give passengers from Monkseaton and Whitley Bay an alternative route into Newcastle.
Nexus apologised to passengers. Engineers yesterday were drilling boreholes and a CCTV camera was passed down the cave-in to establish the scale of the problem under the railway.
Metro director Mick Carbro said: “I want to apologise to passengers for the disruption they are suffering, but we have to close this stretch of line while we investigate the subsidence and make the track completely safe.
“My staff are concentrating on two things: Making sure we get Metro back to normal as soon as possible and providing the best possible alternative travel in the meantime.
“Metro will be suspended in the Northumberland Park area for several weeks while we investigate the mine workings fully and fill them in.
“We will have to dismantle the current overhead power lines and track while this work takes place and then put them back in again. This is a major operation and we will know in more detail where we stand tomorrow when a series of boreholes have been drilled, and we will keep passengers informed.”
The subsidence was detected by a driver just before 5.30pm on Wednesday on the inbound line towards Four Lane Ends. Services in both directions were halted immediately.