Great North Run organisers hit back at 'transport disaster' claims after controversial South Shields bus decision

Organisers of this year’s Great North Run have hit back at claims the event could be hit by a public transport ‘disaster’.

By James Harrison
Wednesday, 24 July, 2019, 06:00
The new transport interchange in South Shields

But transport chiefs have insisted they are taking a ‘common sense’ approach by keeping the facility, due to open in August, exclusively for the use of Metro passengers.

A spokeswoman from the Great Run Company said: “We have worked with [Metro operator] Nexus and South Tyneside Council since 2018 to understand and manage the changes that the new interchange will bring.

The new transport interchange in South Shields

“Although buses, the ferry, private coaching and car transport all play a significant part in moving runners and spectators from the finish area, the Metro is the single biggest mover of people on the day of the Great North Run.

“With the station opening less than a month before the event, Metro feel it would be sensible to operate trains only from the new transport interchange on such a busy day.”

On the day of the race – Sunday September 8 - buses will run from Coronation Street.

Speaking at the West Shields, Cleadon and East Boldon Community Area Forum, Steve Walker, Stagecoach North East’s managing director, said he was particularly concerned about plans for Metro passengers to queue down King Street and across Keppel Street.

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Nexus has insisted queues will be managed by a ‘specialist traffic management company’ and promised ‘at no point will anyone be standing in the road’.

Huw Lewis, Nexus’s customer services director, said: “Public safety is our top priority on the day of the Great North Run.

“We are putting a detailed event plan in place that has been agreed by the local authority, the Great Run Company and the bus operators.

“Tens of thousands of people will flood through South Shields on Metro, with spectators on their way to the finish and runners heading home overlapping each other for a large part of the afternoon.

“The new transport interchange is designed with the run in mind, but it is common sense we build up use of the new interchange for the Great North Run, by opening for Metro this year and then planning to do so for buses in future years.”

A Stagecoach spokesman said: “We have worked closely with Local Authority Officials to address some of our concerns.

“We still anticipate greater delays than usual, given the new pedestrian queuing arrangements across Keppel Street, but we will monitor this and work with officers to keep delays to a minimum, and to hopefully be able to access the new Bus Interchange in future years.”