METRO: Cuts jeopardise improvements

Tyne and Wear Metro is currently undergoing a revamp with stations being renewed or rebuilt, much of the track and track beds being re-laid and the overhead lines being renewed as part of the vital and necessary maintenance.

I know this is causing a lot of inconvenience to Metro users, but keep in mind, it’s the first real investment in the system since the Metro opened in 1980 and it’s vital if the service is to continue.

We are told that the Conservative government has decided to cut the Metro Modernisation Programme by £33m, from an agreed budget of £350m down to £317m, and as a part of its planned cuts to local authority budgets.

What we are not being told by people, for example the anonymous spokesperson quoted for the Department for Transport (DfT), is what the £33m cut will actually mean for travellers who depend upon the Metro across Tyne and Wear daily and for the next five years.

The £33m cut will mean the money promised to purchase a new fleet of Metro trains is now no longer available.

Now, if you have been one of the many passengers stuck on a Metro for I don’t know how long, or waiting for a train that never appears, you will not need me to tell you that the Metro carriages need replacing or getting rid of.

They are the main underlying reason for the breakdowns and recent delays, which the campaign ‘Sort Out The Metro’ has been complaining about.

The Metro carriages, like the rest of the system, are past the sell-by date and need replacing.

This government has just stopped that; and that is going to mean for you, the traveller, more delays, more hold ups and more inconvenience.

More plainly, the cut announced to funding throws into question whether the government will honour a pledge to support investment in a new fleet of trains – the first in over 30 years and, as I have stated above, the main reason why passengers have been caused so much inconvenience in recent months.

Further, the money will have to come from somewhere and that will require other vital and necessary upgrades being put aside, which, in turn, will result in more delays and inconvenience to travellers in Tyne and Wear.

If I can remind your readers, our councillors on the then Passenger Transport Authority (PTA) only agreed to the Labour government’s demand for ‘best value’ in the form of semi-privatisation, and which saw a private company in the form of Deutsche Bahn Regio (German State Railways) bid and take over delivery of Metro services, on the understanding and subsequent agreement that the UK government would provide the necessary funding for the modernisation of the Metro system.

That agreement has now been reneged upon and besides the incredible inconvenience that will cause to those people in Tyne in Wear who rely upon the Metro system, I suggest to our councillor representatives that they look again at the ‘devolution’ document being promoted as the ‘Northern Powerhouse’. Under the current administration it is more likely to resemble a ‘Northern Workhouse’.

Paul Baker

Secretary, Tyne and Wear

Public Transport Users Group