Should the Metro be run as a public service or as a private business?
Coun Forbes is right to call for the Metro contract with the German state corporation Deutsche Bahn Regio to be cancelled in 2017. But will our councillor representatives and Nexus, which manages the service on their behalf, be allowed to do this?
In order to attract the much needed government funding for maintenance and renewal of the Metro system in 2010, the first since the system was opened in 1980, our representatives in Tyne and Wear were obliged to put the operation out to private tender, ie a competition process by private corporations vying with one another for profit.
I, along with others, campaigned to ‘Keep the Metro Public’, not knowing our councillors had been effectively given no choice but to privatise or no government funds.
That rule would still seem to apply to any further government funds, which the system desperately needs.
Since 2012, we have had poor service, delays, breakdowns, poor customer service and chaos on a scale unknown before. What this has meant for travellers is missed appointments, and being late for work, family, childcare and connections (planes, trains, buses). The delays on the Metro have been fouling up the local economy.
We have had countless explanations, from leaves on the line to not enough drivers. We have seen DB Regio fined thousands of pounds for failure to deliver on the contract.
At the same time, Metro ridership has increased by 13 per cent in the last two years, topping 40 million. This is not due to any success, but the fact that more people are having to rely on a service that is failing them. Why is this happening?
I suggest the problem at the heart of this is attempting to operate a large scale public service as a profit making business for the shareholders of whatever corporation is awarded the contract. The overheads, infrastructure, joint contracts, staffing, rolling stock, all take their toll.
There is a logic coming from central government that everything, a public service or private enterprise, can only be operated as a private venture. There seems an inability to recognise failure when it’s confronting them.
I suggest it’s time our councillors put the needs of the people of Tyne and Wear first.
We rely upon the Metro and need a reliable, safe and economically viable light rail transport network in the north east.
This is far more important than the profits of private corporations or the ideology of the government.
In short, its time to bring the Metro back in-house, managed and operated by Nexus, as it was before 2010.