Nexus confirm plans for future of Tyne and Wear Metro operating contract

Photograph: Chris McKenna.
Photograph: Chris McKenna.

Nexus has confirmed its plans for the future of the Tyne and Wear Metro operating contact.

The train operator has confirmed this announcement as part of a long-term strategy to develop the system.

Nexus is seeking endorsement from leaders of the North East Combined Authority to manage Metro operations directly for two years from April 2017, once the current contract has expired.

The train operator currently has the contractual right to extend the current contract for a further two years.

However they said it did not wish to exercise this option.

Instead, Nexus is proposing to manage train operations and stations directly until 2019, allowing it to prepare for significant changes that will come with investment in a new train fleet.

Both Nexus and the operator, DB Regio Tyne and Wear Ltd, are dissatisfied with the structure and the financial and operational performance of the current contract, as passenger outcomes are not where either party would want them to be.

Nexus has agreed an investment package with DB Regio to deliver improvements in fleet performance and customer service for Metro’s 40 million passengers over the final year of the contract.

As a public body, Nexus already sets fares and service specifications for Metro as well as maintaining most of the infrastructure on which trains run.

Under the proposals it would manage Metro stations and train operations directly from 2017 until 2019, when a new and different contract would begin, incorporating delivery of a new train fleet during the first half of the next decade.

Tobyn Hughes, Managing Director of Nexus, said: “The future of the Tyne and Wear Metro holds a major investment in a new fleet of trains, and we need to prepare the business for that.

“The current contract that expires in March 2017 is not delivering the outcomes for passengers that either we or the operator wants to see.  As a result we propose not to exercise our option to extend it beyond its natural expiry date.

“An investment package has been agreed to improve performance over the final year of the contract.

“Managing Metro directly for a limited period will allow Nexus to prepare the Metro business for the significant change that will come with further investment of more than £400m in a new train fleet in the coming years.”

Metro passenger numbers have grown 14% per cent over the past two years to 40.4million.

It remains one of the most high-frequency and lowest cost urban rail operations in the UK for both passengers and taxpayers.

Nexus is working on a business case for a new train fleet to be introduced in the early 2020s, along with a draft specification for rolling stock.

This is expected to be completed in the summer, and will set out the benefits of investment to fund-holders and other stakeholders.

It will present options for future operating models and fleet to the leadership board of the North East Combined Authority during the summer, which will inform discussions with the government and other fund-holders.

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