Nexus fines Tyne and Wear Metro maintenance firm Stadler over unusable train carriages

Passengers are becoming increasingly frustrated by regular delays and cancellations on the Tyne and Wear Metro system. Credit: LDRS

The firm responsible for getting the Tyne and Wear Metro’s troubled trains into service every day has been fined more than £1m for under-performance.

Metro operator Nexus has confirmed that it has hit Swiss manufacturer Stadler with financial penalties for not having enough carriages in a usable state over the past year.

The rail network has been beset with problems over recent months, with passengers left increasingly frustrated by regular delays and cancellations.

The Metro’s existing trains have been in service for more than 40 years and are becoming increasingly failure-prone.

Before Christmas, the Metro slumped to its worst ever performance level – with only 61% of services arriving on time in the four weeks up to 9 December.

And there has since been bad news on the long-awaited arrival of the £362 million new Metro fleet being built by Stadler, which has suffered another delay and has seen its start date pushed back again.

Stadler is contracted to maintain the Metro’s current fleet as well as building the new one, with 28 trains required to run a normal weekday service.

Only 61% of services arrived on time in the four weeks up to 9 December. Credit: NCJ Media

In figures released following a request by the Local Democracy Reporting Service, Nexus has now confirmed that it has so far withheld £1.4m from Stadler in 2023/24 for not getting enough of the existing trains available for use in the last 12 months.

The contractual penalties are issued on an ongoing basis as shortages happen throughout the year and it is understood that the situation has worsened in the latter half of the year, with the cold weather during winter months playing havoc with the trains’ ageing components.

A Nexus spokesperson said: “The Metro fleet is more than 43 years old and is operating beyond its lifespan. We continue to work closely with Stadler to maintain Metro train availability while we transition to the new fleet.

“The contract that we have with Stadler provides for financial adjustments where performance falls below levels that the contract requires.

"Payments to Stadler have therefore been reduced, commensurate with the performance that they have delivered, in accordance with contractual terms."

They continued: “In line with the work we do with Stadler to help maintain Metro train availability, Nexus has re-invested a proportion of the money withheld, with Stadler delivering initiatives that sit outside of the base contract specification to help improve performance.

“Examples include the deployment of specialised portable industrial heaters to protect Metro carriages when stabled overnight as well as modifications to the trains’ air systems, both of which have been introduced to combat reliability issues associated with cold weather.”

German firm DB Regio, which was responsible for the running of the entire Metro network rather than just trains’ maintenance, was previously hit with fines totalling around £2m by Nexus between 2010 and 2017, before Nexus took the day-to-day operation of the network back into its own hands.

A spokesperson from Stadler said: “The Tyne and Wear Metro fleet that Stadler looks after is 43 years old and trains have reached their life expectancy.

"This makes maintaining high levels of performance increasingly difficult to achieve. Despite these challenges, we are doing our upmost to ensure that they are as reliable as they can be, and are constantly looking for new ways to ensure a good service for passengers.”

Want a quick and expert briefing on the biggest news stories? Listen to our latest podcasts to find out What You Need To Know...