Sunderland MP demands talks with Metro bosses over latest problem

No Metro's running systemwide.
No Metro's running systemwide.

A Sunderland MP wants an urgent meeting with Metro bosses after the latest disruption to hit the service.

Thousands of passengers faced misery on Sunday after a power failure caused by a blown transformer caused chaos for Metro passengers.

Julie Elliott MP

Julie Elliott MP

Trouble flared at 5.30am on Sunday after a major fault at South Gosforth electrical substation in Newcastle, left the depot with no electricity.

This meant trains were unable to be moved onto the main lines for service.

A battery powered locomotive was used to move some trains, however, Nexus say, this didn’t allow for enough Metros to be put onto the network to enable a service to be delivered, before the battery needed to be recharged.

The problem in the sub station was a blown transformer. Engineers were able to repair the fault by 10pm on Sunday and services resumed.

However, the issue left a number of Metro passengers needing to find alternative travel arrangements for their journeys.

Julie Elliott, MP for Sunderland Central, now wants answers.

She said: “The recent disruption to service has reaffirmed what we already knew to be true: the Metro system is unreliable, outdated and in need of urgent investment.

“I have today written to Tobyn Hughes, Managing Director of Nexus, requesting an urgent meeting to discuss a way forward on this matter – Sunderland and the wider region deserve a Metro system that is reliable and fit for purpose.”

Director of Rail and Infrastructure at Nexus, Raymond Johnstone, said: “I apologise to our customers for the major disruption that occurred on the Metro system on Sunday.

“The loss of power to our depot was a massive challenge for us. We were unable to move the train out on to the system.

“Engineers worked throughout Sunday day to repair the damaged power supply.

“The scale of the disruption was a huge headache for our customers. We are carrying out a thorough review of what happened.”

Sunderland City Council is also seeking ‘urgent assurances’ from Nexus following the system wide failure.

Portfolio Holder for City Services Councillor Michael Mordey has also written to Nexus Managing Director Tobyn Hughes to demand answers on what went wrong and what lessons can be learnt to prevent the same thing happening again in the future.

Coun Mordey said: “I’m very concerned by what can only be classed as a catastrophic failure of the Metro system and I’m seeking urgent assurances from Nexus as to what caused such devastating disruption and what measures they are putting in place to prevent a repeat.

“The complete suspension of the service in the Sunderland area for the whole day led to severe inconvenience for public transport users in the city, resulting in people being stranded and to the city being cut off from national and International transport connections at Newcastle Central Station and Newcastle International Airport.

“There are a number of key questions that need answering which is why I have written to Nexus on behalf of all those who were caught up in the chaos, asking for a full explanation as to why contingency plans were either not in place or were not effective.”

Among the questions Coun Mordey is asking are:

• Whose equipment failed? - Nexus or the power supplier, and why was no back up equipment available?

• What happened to the contingency plans Nexus recently assured councillors were in place with ‘trigger points’ to arrange alternative travel for Metro passengers.

• Were bus operators asked if they would accept Metro tickets or if they could mobilise a replacement service when the scale of the problem became apparent

• Why were ticket machines still issuing tickets when no trains were running

• When the limited service resumed why was it confined to a frequent service covering only Newcastle and Gateshead?

• Why aren’t some trains kept south of the Tyne to provide or maintain a service in the event of such a catastrophic failure?

Coun Mordey added: “A reliable Metro service is essential to the smooth running of transport networks across Tyne and Wear. It provides a lifeline for millions and it’s vital that people are able to have confidence in it especially as we head into winter.”

A Nexus spokesman added: ““It is not practical for us to call in replacement buses when the entire Metro system gets so unexpectedly shut down.

“Calling in that many buses to cover all five districts of Tyne and Wear, across 60 Metro stations was not possible at such short notice.”

Anyone who bought a ticket on Sunday can contact Nexus to arrange for a refund.