Everything Metro passengers need to know ahead of two-day driver strike on Tyne and Wear service
Drivers are set to hold a two-day strike this week – with passengers looking likely to struggle to travel on two of the busiest days of the year.
Members of the RMT union have decided to take the industrial action as part of an ongoing pay row, with no services to run across the entire network this Friday, December 20, and Saturday, December 21.
Friday – known as ‘Black Eye Friday – is often a busy night out for Christmas partygoers, while Saturday is likely to see festive shoppers hit the high streets ahead of December 25.
They have called for a 15% rise in their pay, which would take them to a salary of £46,000, a pay competitive with other train operators.
Ahead of the disruption, Nexus, which operates the Tyne and Wear Metro, has put together a list of questions and answers to help people make plans and explain the issues.
What’s the key advice for Metro passengers?
Passengers will need to find alternative modes of transport on the days that the RMT are on strike as no Metro services will be running.
Nexus have said it is sorry for the impact the strike will have on people who use Metro and local businesses in the run-up to Christmas.
Are there going to be any replacement bus services during the strike?
No. Nexus say it is just not possible to cover the entire network with replacement buses in sufficient enough numbers to make it an effective Metro replacement.
Will Metro tickets be accepted on local bus routes?
No. It is not possible to have Metro ticket acceptance as there simply isn’t enough capacity on the local bus network.
Can I use Northern Rail services between Sunderland and Newcastle?
Nexus has been asked by Northern to discourage our passengers from using their trains because their services are expected to be extremely busy.
Can I have compensation if I have a season ticket?
Yes. A compensation scheme will be available for season ticket holders affected by the train crew strike.
More information will be available online at www.nexus.org.uk
Will there be any works on the Metro system during the strike?
Yes. The operator will be taking the opportunity to carry out some essential maintenance tasks when the Metro system is shut.
Why is the train crew union going on strike?
The strike is happening because of a pay dispute.
Nexus has offered train crew a 15% rise in pay over two years, on top of cost-of-living increases, along with improved shift patterns which is says would bring Metro’s train crew salary up to £46,000 per year by April 2022.
However the Union has said this still falls short of industry standard and staff are being expected to work overtime and are unable to take annual leave.
Steve Hedley, the union’s assistant general secretary, said: “Our members have had enough. This is not a decision that they have taken lightly, but they feel that there is no other option.
“They know that they are not offering a competitive wage. They cannot sustain a situation where they are losing staff all of the time. Even before the industrial action, trains have been getting cancelled because there are not enough drivers.”
Mr Hedley said that rival rail firms such as LNER, TransPennine Express, and ScotRail offer annual driver salaries of around £55,000 – far higher than the £46,000 that Nexus has offered.
He added: “People are leaving their jobs every day because, quite frankly, the company is not paying competitively for drivers.
“So the drivers are leaving for other companies and that is causing absolute chaos. Our drivers cannot get annual leave, they are being expected to work overtime shifts.”
Are Nexus losing Metro drivers to other train companies?
Nexus have denied they are losing staff and said: “Contrary to the picture painted by the RMT union, the number of train crew we have is now increasing, with 16 new recruits entering service after Christmas.
“There are 16 more starting training in the new year from more than 2,500 people who applied for jobs last year, attracted by the wages and the job itself.”
Can Nexus meet the pay demands of the unions?
The firm says it cannot because Nexus is publicly funded and Metro does not make a profit.
“We use revenue from fares and a subsidy from taxpayers in order to meet Metro’s running costs, and we are already under huge funding pressure,” a spokesperson said.
Will there be further RMT strikes in the future?
It is possible the RMT could call for further strike dates.
Is there still a train crew overtime ban on Metro?
Yes. The RMT train crew overtime ban remains in place.
This means there may be less frequent Metro services and busier trains on some days, but Metro will still be running to all destinations on these days.
Will there be more talks in a bid to avoid a strike on Metro?
Nexus has said it remains open to have more talks with the union but none are planned at the moment.