Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Pressure Ramped Up in Metro Revamp Bid

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Pressure Ramped Up in Metro Revamp Bid

Article excerpt

Byline: Kathryn Riddell Reporter kathryn.riddell@ncjmedia.co.uk

PRESSURE is mounting on the Government to find the PS362million needed to fund new Metro trains for the region.

The Tyne and Wear Public Transport Users Group are calling for the direct grant to finance new trains to replace the ageing current fleet.

Just a week before the new budget is revealed by Chancellor Philip Hammond, the group has collected more than 500 signatures on the petition site 38 Degrees.

The group is concerned that the Department for Transport (DfT) could force Nexus to pay for the new trains via a Public Finance Initiative (PFI) loan.

This would see a company or consortium pay for the work up front and require councils to pay them back with interest over several years.

Nexus, who operate the Metro, estimate it will cost PS362m to replace the fleet of trains and upgrade the system. Metro has been plagued with issues in recent years, leading to many customer complaints.

Vicki Gilbert, chair of the TW Public Transport Users Group, said: "Our Metros are breaking down on a regular basis, because they are nearly 40 years old, although many think they are new trains. They were superficially refurbished, but at present any replacement spare part needs to be specially handmade."

She branded a PFI deal as "like a Wonga loan" which would "mean more cuts in our other public services to repay the interest and loan back and we the public will not own the trains".

Vicki added: "Whatever way you look at it, we have a rail service that is not on track for the passengers who rely upon it and that is due to current Government policy."

A total of 563 people have now backed the petition asking for the Government to release grant funding for new Metro trains.

Leader of Newcastle council Nick Forbes, who oversees transport for the North East Combined Authority, has recently confirmed that representatives of the region's councils have been in talks with the Treasury over money to replace the aging fleet.

Addressing a meeting of Newcastle city council, Coun Forbes said: "On funding for Metro, there has been a year-long campaign of trying to highlight the continued failing of the system. …

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