Figures reveal how Metro services were affected by the bitter industrial dispute

The extent of Metro delays during a bitter industrial dispute with train drivers has been revealed.

Friday, 17th January 2020, 1:01 pm
A Metro train

Latest figures show only 73% of Metro services arrived on time in the network’s latest four-week monitoring period between December 8 and January 4, which included a two-day shutdown caused by an RMT union strike.

A passengers’ group said “unacceptable” delays of up to an hour had been reported in recent weeks.

No Metro trains ran on December 20 and 21 because of the train crew walkout, while union members also imposed a ban on overtime working from December 1 that led to some delays and cancellations.

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The industrial action was halted on December 27 after a breakthrough in negotiations, with a new contract agreement expected to be formally put to ballots of RMT and Aslef union members later this month.

But while the latest punctuality figure marks a significant drop on an 80% success rate for the same time last year, it actually was an improvement from previous weeks.

In the four weeks running up to December 7, only 65% of trains were on time. Nexus bosses have blamed autumn weather conditions, with leaves on the line causing ‘low rail adhesion’, for that poor performance.

Any service that is 30 seconds early or three minutes late is classed as not arriving on time, and every single train that should have run on the strike days was counted towards the punctuality figures.

Metro services director Chris Carson told a meeting of the North East Joint Transport Committee’s Tyne and Wear sub-committee on Thursday that Nexus was “working towards a resolution” with unions.

He added that the state of the Metro’s ageing fleet, due to be replaced with more modern trains from 2022, is “going forwards not backwards” after investment in improved maintenance.

A Nexus spokesman said: “Metro performance and punctuality is something we are continually working to improve.

“October to December 2019 was much better in terms of punctuality compared to the same period the previous year.

“Several factors have had an impact on punctuality over the last four weeks, including low rail adhesion. Metro was also affected by industrial action, which included an overtime ban, and then a two day strike by train crew members in the RMT union on December 20 and 21.”

According to a Nexus report, Metro ticket revenue is £1.5million adrift of its target this year – but that figure does not yet take into account the damage caused by the industrial action.

Kevin Dickinson, of the Sort Out The Metro group, said: “As a group we are concerned that there is insufficient focus on performance of the service. Passengers just want trains to turn up at the times promised. Delays of 30 minutes or in some cases an hour were seen recently which is unacceptable.”

He added: “Following a meeting with Metro we are assured that plans are in place to improve the service. There has been significant improvement in the reliability of the infrastructure and trains. A big issue is availability of drivers and Metro have explained how they plan to address this.

“We hope that the steps being taken deliver results in a reliable Metro service but as passengers the jury is out until we see delivery through trains running on time on a daily basis.”