Decision on Metro and ferry fare changes delayed

A Metro train.
A Metro train.

Transport bosses were unable to agree to changes to Metro and Shields Ferry fares after councillors from Newcastle and North Tyneside failed to turn up.

The North East Combined Authority Tyne and Wear Transport sub-Committee was left unable to formally complete any business at its meeting this afternoon (Wednesday, November 21) due to the absence of members.

Without them, the panel was ‘inquorate’ – meaning it was short of the numbers it needs to make decisions, which will now have to be taken at a separate meeting.

According to the authority’s constitution there needs to be four members at the Sub-Committee meetings to be able to make decisions, but there were only three present.

Among the changes due to be discussed were, a 10p increase to single and day Metro and ferry tickets bought without a smart card.

However, prices for those fares are set to be frozen for anyone using Nexus’s Pop Card.

The ferry is also set to see the cost of one- and four-week season tickets cut by 20p and 80p, respectively, to ‘encourage take up amongst regular travellers’.

Car parking fees at Bank Foot, Callerton Parkway, Four Lane Ends, Northumberland Park, Regent Centre and Stadium of Light are also planned to stick at £1 a day per car – the same level it has been set at since 2012.

“It’s a regrettable fact that as a subsidised service the Metro has to, from time to time, review fares,” Tobyn Hughes, Nexus’s managing director, told the panel.

“We’ve a number of conflicting and opposing objectives, but we seek always to maintain the affordability [of the service], but cost pressures mean from time to time we have to increase fares.”

Transport managers also took questions on their performance.

Disruption caused by the ‘Beast from the East’ saw punctuality rates slump to 85 per cent last year.

And so far this year it is running at just 81.68 per cent – with the worst of the winter weather still to come.

According to Metro bosses, more than a third of delays are caused by problems with the trains themselves and £906,000 has been earmarked for upgrades, despite ongoing preparations to order a whole new fleet.

“The past few months have been trying at times for Metro’s loyal passengers,” Mr Hughes added.

“On top of Autumn conditions, which are testing every year, we’re also dealing with issues relating to reliability of the ageing Metro fleet.

“I want to reassure the committee and the public that every day Metro staff pull out all the stops to provide the best service we can.”

James Harrison , Local Democracy Reporting Service