Nexus has been awarded extra funding to help complete an upgrade of the Tyne and Wear Metro system.

Local transport minister Norman Baker confirmed that the Department for Transport (DfT) would be providing £23 million to Nexus to continue the refurbishment project. It will go towards the total £93 million, which is the maximum of funding allowed under the 2010 Funding Agreement for the repair and upgrading of the Metro system which provides key links across the north-east region. This money will be delivered over the next three years and will allow for the creation of 60 new jobs to complete the upgrade.

The service connects the centre of Newcastle with the coastal areas of Whitley Bay and South Shields, Newcastle Airport, South Tyneside and Sunderland. It is currently the busiest light rail network outside London with 38 million passengers using the system every year. Officials stated that the funding will help Nexus to deliver key improvement between 2013 and 2016 and will include a host of major upgrades making travel much easier for commuters.

Mr Baker said: "This is a major programme of renewal of the metro infrastructure and will bring real benefits to the people and economy of the north-east. The money gives Nexus the certainty to plan ahead and deliver the best outcomes for metro users."

He added that the DfT is also determined in supporting the north-east's attempts at creating a much improved service for travellers as well as cutting carbon emissions wherever possible.

Among the improvements will be the renewing of tracks and trackbeds from Tynemouth to Gateshead, the complete refurbishment of the Metro train fleet and completing the upgrade of the 45 stations across the region.

The network is also looking to implement a smart travel card system, similar to the Oyster Card in London, with the introduction of the Pop card. This will also see the creation of new ticket machines allowing for quicker and much more efficient payment systems.

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