Metro operator accepts blame for Great North Run chaos

Crowds queue at South Shields Metro station of Great North Run day.
Crowds queue at South Shields Metro station of Great North Run day.

Metro operator DB Regio Tyne and Wear (DBTW) has accepted responsibility for failings which brought chaos to the network on Great North Run Day.

A report into the problems reveals the firm knew it would be unable to provide the agreed level of service on the day of the run - September 13 - as early as July, but did not inform network owner Nexus.

By 10am, some parts of the network were running at just a quarter of capacity, which in turn lead to problems getting passengers onto trains, causing more delays.

The hold-ups lead to 'bunching' of trains across the network which caused a number of overloads on the system's overhead lines.

The report, to the North East Combined Authority's Tyne and Wear transport sub-committee, accuses DBTW of being 'deliberately misleading' over the fact it was facing a shortage of drivers on the day.

"It is clear that in order to resolve the problem of obtaining the correct number of drivers to deliver the Metro service, the solution in place was simply to reduce the service level provided," says the report.

"No attempt was made to work with the Trade Unions in addressing this. No information was “passed up the line” to make the directors aware of this reduction in service and there was no message sent to Nexus.

"At the point of passing the detailed timetables to Nexus, DBTW failed to present them in a previously agreed format which would have made any changes and the level of compliance with the Operating Specification clear.

"The accumulation of these actions can only be described as being deliberately misleading. Nexus’ Concession Office failed to notice this reduction in respect to the detailed timetable documents sent to them on two occasions in July 2015."

DBTW managing director Sharon Kelly said: “I would like to apologise unreservedly on behalf of DB Regio Tyne and Wear to passengers, organisers, stakeholders and the people of the North East for the unacceptable service provided by us on the day of the Great North Run.

“Like everybody in the region, I understand the importance of the Great North Run and our role within it. I have been proud to be part of the successful delivery of Metro services for the past five years and share the disappointment for the inadequate service provided on the day.

“I make no excuses for what happened. Mistakes were made in terms of planning for this event, which have been subject to a review that has now concluded, and we have immediately taken actions to ensure this never happens again.

“I once again offer my sincere apologies on behalf of DB Regio Tyne and Wear and thank everyone for their patience on a very difficult day for all concerned, and promise to do everything in my power to ensure the events are not repeated.

“We are fully committed to continuing to make the Great North Run the success it has been for so many years. As part of this ongoing commitment we will also be funding 100 North East charity places for runners at the 2016 event. We will continue to fund places for the life of this contract, as well as ensuring we provide a good service to runners and spectators before and after the race.”

Nexus managing director Tobyn Hughes added: “The Tyne and Wear Metro has been a key part of the Great North Run for many years. We’re extremely proud to carry tens of thousands of passengers to and from this high profile event.

“Metro has an excellent track record for delivering a good service before, during, and after the run.

“However, something clearly went wrong this year. The Metro service wasn’t up to scratch. I want to say sorry on behalf of Nexus, which owns Metro, for the difficulty this caused to participants, spectators and organisers.

“We have carried out a detailed investigation and have made a series of recommendations to ensure that it doesn’t happen again. These will be reviewed and discussed by the North East Combined Authority.

“We are already working closely with our train operator, DB Regio, to make sure it puts in place a range of measures to prevent a repeat of the problems which occurred.”