Business organisations in North East England have come together to urge the Government to fund a new fleet of trains for the Tyne and Wear Metro.
The North East England Chamber of Commerce, Confederation of British Industry and Federation of Small Businesses have joined forces behind a campaign to persuade ministers to make an early decision on funding new Metro trains.
Research shows agreeing around £400 million to replace Metro’s ageing train fleet would be worth three times the financial investment in on-going benefits to the region’s economy by supporting growth and reducing congestion.
James Ramsbotham, Chief Executive of the North East England Chamber of Commerce, said: “Our members are keenly aware what an asset the Tyne and Wear Metro is for North East England, getting people to work and training, reducing congestion and supporting thousands of local businesses. The Metro is an essential part of our region’s economic future and there is a very strong case for a new train fleet. We now need Government to step up with the funding to deliver it.”
Sarah Glendinning, Regional Director for the Confederation of British Industry, said: “The Tyne and Wear Metro is a vital piece of our transport infrastructure crucial in connecting businesses to their customers and a greater talent pool. Businesses are concerned about the capacity and resilience of local infrastructure, underlining the need for investment to replace the struggling Metro train fleet.”
Simon Hanson, North East Development Manager at the Federation of Small Businesses, said: “The age of the Metro fleet and its reliability problems are becoming more of a concern. It is impossible to imagine the North East without Metro but we need to see investment if it is to continue to thrive and support the economy of our towns and cities.”
The three business organisations are working alongside Nexus, the public body which owns Metro, in asking their members to show support for a new train fleet, for which funding is needed through the Department for Transport.
Details of the case for new trains and a promotional film are at www.nexus.org.uk/Metrofutures along with details on how to show support.
Almost 40 million passengers a year use Metro, taking an estimated 11 million car journeys off some of the North East’s busiest roads, reducing both congestion and air pollution.
Two thirds of journeys are for work and education, but Metro also brings tens of thousands of people into town and city centres for shopping and leisure, helping support local business.
Metro relies on the same fleet of trains in use since the system opened in 1980, but these are now dogged by frequent faults which have hit day-to-day reliability. The trains are now among the worst-performing of their kind.
Nexus says the cost of keeping the 40-year-old fleet on the rails in the coming years will grow sharply if they are not replaced, while passengers may be put off travelling as delays and train failures grow.
The business case for a new fleet has been drawn up as part of the Metro Futures programme, which also includes investment to renew key infrastructure up to 2030 and explore possible new routes and extensions for the system, which is among the busiest rail networks outside London.
The total investment programme for the existing network would be worth almost £1 billion up to 2030, including operating costs, but be worth three times more to the economy.