1. ITV Report

The Tyne & Wear Metro Strike: what you need to know

No Metro services will be running on Friday 20 December and Saturday 21 December. Credit: PA

100,000 passengers use the Tyne and Wear Metro every day.

But on one the busiest shopping day of the year, a breakdown in talks between operator Nexus and the RMT union has brought the service to a halt. All 60 stations and closed and will not reopen until Sunday.

Picketing metro drivers gathered at 4:30am in South Gosforth, Newcastle. They insist the dispute surrounds working conditions, not pay.

Watch Rachel Bullock's Saturday report here:

Visiting the picket line, North of Tyne Mayor Jamie Driscoll was if he supported the strike action?

I think when people are in a position that all they have left is industrial action then I think this is the sort of thing people are forced into.

I support Nexus as well. And that is why the answer to this is to get ACAS involved and get around the table.

– Jamie Driscoll

In a statement, the Tyne and Wear Metro operator Nexus said the strike was ''totally unjustified.''

This RMT train crew strike is totally unjustified and is bringing misery to many thousands of passengers on two very busy days in the countdown to Christmas.

The RMT has rejected a very good pay offer and improved rostering arrangements. They walked away from talks in November 28 and opted to take industrial action.

They need to call these strikes off and enter talks with us. Our door remains open, but we cannot meet their pay demands as it’s unaffordable for Nexus as a public body that makes no profit.

We look forward to hearing from the RMT to arrange more talks.

– RMT spokesperson
North of Tyne Mayor Jamie Driscoll visited the picket line, but maintained he supported both sides in the dispute. Credit: ITV Tyne Tees

Saturday was the second day of the strike. Watch Kris Jepson's report from Friday here:

What is happening?

A strike by RMT union members means that there will be no services, across the whole Tyne & Wear Metro network, on Friday 20 December and Saturday 21 December.

Why are they going on strike?

This action is part of an ongoing dispute over pay and working hours. In November, RMT train said no to a 15% pay rise and change to overtime working put forward by operator Nexus.

How has Nexus responded?

Nexus has urged staff to rethink industrial action.

Will there be a lot of disruption?

The action is taking place on the last weekend before Christmas, traditionally a busy time for shopping. Newcastle United are playing Crystal Palace at home on Saturday and fans have been advised to allow plenty of time for their journey.

Has any alternative transport been organised?

Yes but it is in the hands of several different operators.

  • Stagecoach is putting on extra buses on half-hourly X24 (Sunderland to Newcastle) and X34 (South Shields to Newcastle) routes.
  • Northern Rail says where possible it will add extra carriages to its trains around the North East and is working with local bus companies to provide additional road transport from Newcastle, Seaham, and Sunderland on Friday and Hartlepool, Heworth, Newcastle, Seaham, and Sunderland on Saturday.
  • Go North East are increasing capacity and numbers of buses running from South Shields to Newcastle and Sunderland to Newcastle.
  • Arriva have no additional services that are timetabled officially but they have extra busses that will be deployed as and when required on the routes that get the busiest.
  • Arrow Cars, the airport's official taxi company, is putting on extra drivers.
  • Newcastle Airport is not doing anything specific but has warned passengers to make other arrangements.

Watch Kris Jepson's Thursday report here:

Martijn Gilbert, Managing Director at Go North East, said:

We appreciate that buses will be busier than normal as a result of the industrial action, so we’re boosting capacity in key areas to minimise disruption and allow as many people as possible to travel.

We’ve got a great offer with our range of day and saver tickets, as well as accepting the multi modal Network One ticket range. Many of our buses also have free Wi-Fi and USB chargers as part of our continuing investments to make low carbon bus travel even better, so rather than drive we’re encouraging more people to get on board and give the bus a try.

We'll be doing all we can to help keep our towns and cities moving by easing congestion, and in turn helping to improve air quality.

– GO North East statement

Malcolm Bell, Operations Manager at Stagecoach North East, said:

As Christmas approaches, a lot of people are relying on public transport for last minute Christmas shopping or for their daily commute.

While Metro services are unavailable, we want to remind everyone that bus travel is a cheap and convenient alternative, and to take advantage of our express services to avoid the stress of increased traffic congestion.

– Stagecoach statement

A spokesperson for Northern said:

We absolutely recognise how important travel is this weekend – the weekend before Christmas – and will do everything possible to help people in the North East get where they need to be.

Across the region, where possible, we will add extra carriages to our trains and are working with local bus companies to provide additional road transport from Newcastle, Seaham, and Sunderland on Friday and Hartlepool, Heworth, Newcastle, Seaham, and Sunderland on Saturday.

We expect all our services to be extremely busy – even with the additional capacity – and so are advising all customers to allow extra time for any travel.

– Northern statement
The Metro strike will take place on the weekend before Christmas Credit: ITV Tyne Tees