METRO: Trains need replacing

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Last week we learned of a further delay to funding new carriages for our Metro, so campaigners at the Tyne & Wear Public Transport Users Group (T&WPTUG) have done some investigating, given that the Nexus bid for the new trains was made in 2016, nearly a year ago.

Now we hear the government has no intention of giving the promised £435m to our local councils for the much needed replacement of Metro trains.

Instead the suggestion is councils borrow the money under a Private Finance Initiative (PFI).

If this is correct, it will leave local councils in the North East Combined Authority area (Tyne and Wear, Northumberland and Durham) in debt for 30 years or more.

The Metro came into service in 1980. It is still operating with the same carriages that are nearly 40-years-old and which have needed replacing for ten years.

That is why it keeps breaking down and is frequently subject to delays.

That is also why passengers are regularly stuck on trains, told to find a bus or subjected to unreasonable inconvenience.

The trains need replacing for the service to operate.

I would remind readers that, in order to obtain government money for the necessary refurbishment or upgrade of the Metro in 2007, councils were obliged by central government (and under EU rules) to put the Metro out to tender to be run by a private corporation.

I would also draw their attention to the billions that have been awarded to the Crossrail Project in London and the High Speed 2 Rail project without a mention that the private corporations involved borrow the money under a PFI scheme.

Further evidence of the inequality between London and the north east, where for those living in London, 500 times more per person is spent on their transport infra structure than here in the north.

The main point of this letter that readers should be made aware of, if what we hear is correct, is the Metro, currently owned by our councils and belonging to us all, will no longer be a publicly owned transport system as it will belong to the hedge funds and other lenders involved in PFI. That would be, in our view, ‘robbery by stealth’ and just like the highway robbers in history.

We as campaigners for a cheap integrated public transport service for everyone and to overcome climate change and air pollution, will continue to campaign against this outcome.

Our next meeting is on July 27 at 4.45pm in Whitley Bay Library.

Come along and help us campaign for better bus service, Metro trains, cycling and walking.

Vicki Gilbert

North Tyneside Public Transport Users Group