Metro bosses' plan to end driver shortage and help make service more smooth
Metro bosses have unveiled a “transformational” plan to end a train driver shortage that is causing regular cancellations.
Councillors were told on July 4 that 35 drivers have left the network in recent months, the majority lured away by rival operators offering higher salaries.
Chris Carson, Metro’s services director, admitted that driver shortages have posed a problem for the network since Christmas, with passengers left frustrated when services have been withdrawn as a result.
But he revealed that a deal has been hashed out with trade unions to provide a short-term solution, with bigger plans afoot to more than triple the number of drivers trained every year.
Mr Carson told the North East Joint Transport Committee’s Tyne and Wear sub-committee that network operator Nexus has offered to buy back drivers’ lieu time and increasing overtime pay rates, following union talks on Monday.
He said that the plan has already resulted in an increase in the number of drivers signing up for overtime shifts, and added sickness rates are now “back to more normal levels” after a spike at the start of the year.
Mr Carson then revealed there was “something pretty transformational” in the pipeline that will radically increase the number of drivers Nexus is able to train – up from 24 a year to a possible 80.
He said: “At the moment we have three schools of eight drivers per year. 24 a year is not enough to keep up with the current churn.
“In future we will do two schools of eight side-by-side, so 16 in a school, and we will do four or possibly five a year.
“We will have the ability to train 64 drivers per year or, if we need it, there could be 80.”
Mr Carson said that Nexus remains “deep in discussion” with trade unions over a new train crew agreement.
He said talks are at a “sensitive and critical stage” and “both sides are relatively content”, but two key issues still need to be resolved – driver salaries and a shift roster.