Anger as Metro strikes pose transport headache for Stadium of Light concert-goers

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CITY business leaders today expressed anger and disappointment at the threat of Stadium of Light concert-goers being hit by Metro strikes.

There are fears the city’s image could be tarnished and economy affected by the RMT union’s proposed Metro strikes on June 7 and 21, when Coldplay and Bruce Springsteen play the Stadium of Light.

Although there is no threat to the gigs going ahead, travel chaos is expected.

Mick Thurlbeck, member of the Sunderland Chamber of Commerce, said the strikes could have severe consequences.

“I think it will spoil the party for a lot of people visiting for the concerts,” he said. “I find it disappointing and I hope Sunderland isn’t blamed for it.

“I know that when I attended a concert at the stadium last year, there were huge queues for the Metro, so obviously they are picking the right time to do it.”

The RMT said drivers would refuse to show up for work after a dispute over pay.

Mr Thurlbeck said that this could impact the success and attendance of future gigs at the stadium.

“I suppose with the tickets being bought, people will have to make different plans for transport, but I think it could leave a legacy and next year.

“People might think twice about attending the concerts,” he added.

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James Rowbottom, Chief Executive of the North East Chamber of Commerce, said: “We are bringing people in from far and wide and we really want them to leave with a positive impression.

“Last year people were Tweeting about the positive experience they had, but this year it will be tweets about difficulty with transport.

“I would really encourage the unions to think of a different date that will not show off the North East in a poor way.

“Events like this is where the business community is trying to bring wealth in the city, and we all need to work together in this to build a better future for the region.”

The RMT – which is to write to working-class hero Springsteeen to ask him to back the strikes – accuse Metro’s operating company DB Regio of failing to produce a realistic offer on pay and conditions.

Drivers reportedly earn an average salary of about £37,000, including overtime, and voted to reject a 1.3 per cent pay rise offer.

RMT General secretary Bob Crow said: “We have delivered the strongest possible mandate for action in three separate ballots and we know that the action announced will prove to be rock solid.

“We have had no option but to take action in defence of standards of living.

“We remain available for talks in these disputes but the unity and determination of our members to win fair settlements cannot be underestimated.”

A spokesman for Nexus, which manages Metro, said: “Nexus is working hard at the highest level to bring both sides together so they can resolve this dispute.

“We urge unions and DBTW, which operates Metro trains and stations under contract to us, to continue talks.

“Strike action around the Stadium of Light concerts would have an impact on struggling local businesses, people’s livelihoods and the image of our region on days when we should be welcoming thousands of visitors from across the UK.”

A spokesman for train operator DBTW said: “We are in discussions with ASLEF and the other Trades Unions and have agreed arrangements for further talks in the current pay dispute.

“We want to resolve this matter quickly without disruption.

“We will provide a further update on Friday 1st June confirming the train services we plan to operate on Thursday 7th June.”

Sunderland Council leader Paul Watson said: “At the moment, we are looking at the implications around this announcement.”

SAFC declined to comment.

Also, Metro cleaners will go on strike between 10.30pm on June 10, and 10.30pm on June 12.

Twitter: @tomwhite7 @sunechohannah