Stagecoach chief predicts Great North Run transport 'disaster' over bus station closure decision in South Shields
Transport chiefs have predicted ‘disaster’ on one of the busiest days of the year in the region.
Bosses at bus operator Stagecoach claim it has been so worried by plans in place for this year’s Great North Run it has even considered cancelling services on the day.
Concerns have been prompted by a decision to stop buses using the new £21million South Shields Transport Interchange for the event, reserving it solely for Metro passengers.
Transport executive Nexus has, however, defended the move and said substantial measures will be in place to cope with demand on the day of the Great North Run.
Steve Walker, Stagecoach North East’s managing director, said: “It seems the decision has been taken, when the Great North Run is on, to close the bus station, so there will be disruption even more so than usual on Great North Run day.
He added: “We thought about ceasing all services, but we’re going to use Coronation Street to try and make those pick ups.
“But the way they’re talking about Metro passengers gives me some health and safety concerns – we’re expecting local services will be a disaster on that day.”
Mr Walker was speaking at a meeting of South Tyneside Council’s West Shields, Cleadon and East Boldon Community Area Forum.
He also revealed Metro passengers would be expected to queue down King Street and across Keppel Street, leading to concerns over traffic management and safety.
More than 40,000 runners are expected to cross the finish line in South Shields, many of whom could be unfamiliar with the layout of the town.
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A Nexus spokesman said marshals would be on duty to manage and direct crowds, but transport organisation would have to change from previous years to account for the new interchange.
Mr Walker added: “[Organisers] are trying to convince us it will be safe, we either stop buses in South Shields or reluctantly accept they are correct, so we’ve accepted it will be correct because we don’t want to impact local people.”
Metro operator Nexus is due to assume responsibility for the new South Shields Transport Interchange when it is completed and opened in August and forms phase two of the £100million South Shields 365 regeneration masterplan.
Huw Lewis, customer services director at Nexus, said: “South Shields Interchange will be a fabulous new asset for the town when it opens on 4 August, a few weeks before the Great North Run.
“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 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. That way we can make sure people arriving and leaving have a comfortable and safe experience throughout their day.
“Local buses for South Shields and surrounding communities will call around the corner on Coronation Street by Asda instead this year, and we have agreed this approach with South Tyneside Council, the Great Run Company and bus operators. Bus companies run limited local services on the day as some parts of their normal routes are closed for the run, and these services can easily be accommodated on Coronation Street. Buses for runners and spectators from the finish area back towards Newcastle are not affected by this at all.
He added: “People queueing for Metro will approach along Ocean Road and King Street as they always have then cross Keppel Street - which is a one-way bus, taxi and access-only road - under the supervision of a specialist traffic management company. At no point will anyone be standing in the road.
“We plan Great North Run day meticulously alongside the event organisers and other partners. There will be more than 50 Metro staff in the town centre to advise and look after people whether they want to go by bus, Metro or Shields Ferry. Our staff in the town centre work alongside the many volunteers and staff from the police, St John’s Ambulance, the Great Run Company and council who make this day a success.
“Full details of local transport is included in the runners’ packs sent out to all entrants and there will be comprehensive information on our website www.nexus.org.uk and on posters at relevant stations, as well as on-street signage, before and on the day itself.”