Tyne and Wear Metro price hikes branded 'insulting'
Fare increases on the Tyne and Wear Metro have been branded 'insulting' following a period of major disruption on the network.
The cost of a journey on the Metro could increase by as much as 13.9% from April, which operator Nexus has blamed on increased running costs - including a high voltage power bill of more than £20 million.
The plans, which will be seen by members of the North East Joint Transport Committee on Thursday 12 January, would see the cost of a paper Metro ticket increase by between 8.8% and 13.9% depending on what zones they cover.
A single journey would increase from £3.90 to £4.30, a day ticket could rise from £5.70 to £6.20, a weekly pass would rise from £24 to £24.40 and a four-week ticket would increase from £81.30 to £90.20.
However, prices for those who use Pop Pay As You Go will have their fares frozen at 2021 prices.
Services between Pelaw and South Shields reopened in December after a three-month shutdown while upgrade works were carried out.
A fire at a sub-station in Pallion stopped trains on the network's Sunderland line running beyond Park Lane, restriction that section to a 24-minute service.
Services have also been affected in Sunderland on days where national rail strikes have been held and the city's main station has closed a number of times due to issues with flooding and staff shortages.
Sunderland Lib Dem councillor Stephen O'Brien says the fare increases should be rejected "until they can guarantee a decent Metro service for Sunderland".
He said: “For transport bosses to inflict huge price hikes on Metro users who have had to put up with such a shoddy service in Sunderland beggars belief.
"For the past year you just haven’t been able to rely on the Metro to get you anywhere on time – and for the past few months most of Sunderland has had no service at all. It is inconceivable that the same thing would be allowed to happen on Tyneside.
“To add insult to injury, the biggest hikes are targeted at those who still use paper tickets – penalising older or vulnerable people who can’t or don’t want to use a Pop card, mobile phone app or mobile payments.
“Ruling Labour councillors on the North East Joint Transport Committee should be playing hell with Nexus and refusing these fare hikes until they can guarantee a decent Metro service for Sunderland.”
Vicki Gilbert, chair of Tyne and Wear Public Transport Users Group, said: "Obviously fare rises on the Metro are unwelcome at a time when household budgets are squeezed and we need to be attracting more people onto public transport. We do, however, understand the financial pressures that Nexus are under due to lack of central government funding for our vital Metro system."
Proposals that could be approved next Thursday would see the cost of paper Metro tickets increase by between 8.8% and 13.9% depending on what zones they cover.
The maximum cost of a single journey would rise from £3.90 to £4.30, a day ticket from £5.70 to £6.20, a weekly pass from £24 to £24.40, and a four-week ticket from £81.30 to £90.20.
Metro operator Nexus said the price rise was "inevitable" and that the levels put forward are "the best we can do in difficult times".
Customer services director Huw Lewis said: "Metro is a public service with no profit margin to fall back on - every penny raised in fares goes towards operating the system. We can't run trains if we don't pay the electricity bill, so it is inevitable overall fares need to rise this year.
"Despite this, our proposals mean that we will be among very few, if any, train operators to offer thousands of customers a price freeze, for the second year in row. If you have Pop on Google Pay or a free Pop Pay As You Go card from nexus.org then your fares will be frozen at 2021 prices. If you now buy paper tickets from machines but switch to Pop you can save more than £1 a day, from day one.
"We have also capped weekly season ticket price rises well below inflation because we recognise these are used by the lowest-paid commuters. This is the best we can do in difficult times, but I believe it is a fair deal we have put forward."
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