Transport, transport, transport: North East Mayor candidates make their election promises

Political Correspondent Tom Sheldrick took a trip on the Tyne and Wear Metro to find out what North East Mayor candidates are promising if they get elected in May

From Berwick to Barnard Castle, the first ever North East Mayor will serve over two million people in all.

Voters will have the chance to choose who they want to elect for the new position on Thursday 2 May.

There are six candidates in total: independent, Labour, Conservative, Liberal Democrat, Reform UK, and Green.

Most of them have made promises to overhaul the public transport network in the North East, from our buses to the Tyne and Wear Metro service.

ITV Tyne Tees spoke to each candidate on a journey from Tynemouth to Sunderland using the Metro, to ask them about their policies and promises.

Jamie Driscoll, Independent

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The current North of Tyne Mayor, Jamie Driscoll, was the first candidate on the journey.

He was elected in May 2019 as a Labour mayor, but was not shortlisted by the party for this role. He quit Labour, and is standing as an independent.

Mr Driscoll's key pledge? To "bring the transport back under public control, and make it free for everybody 18 and under".

He also said he'd ensure "green products" would be made in the North East.

Why should people vote for Mr Driscoll? He told ITV Tyne Tees: "This is about someone in the North East who can do a good job. I've got five years' experience, I've smashed every target."

Kim McGuinness, Labour Party

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The person Labour chose to be their candidate for mayor is Kim McGuinness, currently the Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner.

On the Metro from Northumberland Park to Monument station, Ms McGuinness highlighted that she is the only woman standing in the election, something she believes is "really important".

Her priorities for the post if elected, she said, are: "Opportunity for everyone. Safe, reliable, affordable public transport. Getting our buses back under public control."

On the issue of the Labour selection row, Ms McGuinness said: "I don't think anybody in the North East is talking about internal party politics, we're all talking about how we make our region better."

Guy Renner-Thompson, Conservative Party

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Third on the route was the Conservative candidate Guy Renner-Thompson.

He is a Northumberland councillor who owns a construction company.

Mr Renner-Thompson pledged: "No tax rises, a plan for public transport which includes more trains, more buses, linking those all together with an integrated ticketing system."

With the Conservatives sitting as low as 26% in a recent poll, he said the government's standing did not worry him: "A mayoral election is a local election, we talk about local issues."

Dr Aidan King, Liberal Democrat

At Gateshead Metro station was Dr Aidan King, a local registrar who is standing as the Liberal Democrat candidate in the election.

Dr King's key pledge is to build a wind farm across a significant part of the region.

He said: "The main way we're going to get economic growth going is to build Europe's largest onshore wind farm, it's going to be an area from Newton Aycliffe to Barnard Castle and up to the bottom of Northumberland National Park."

With his medical background, Dr King is pledging to support the NHS - though this is not something that is within the mayor's powers. Still, he pledged to help "upskill" NHS workers.

Paul Donaghy, Reform UK

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Next stop was Paul Donaghy, standing for Reform UK - formerly the Brexit Party.

Mr Donaghy is a hotel chain operations manager, and a councillor in Sunderland. He was a Conservative councillor until last year, when he defected to Reform.

"I want to improve the transport network in the North East, link up the. Metros, the buses, the trains with one single ticket or app," he said.

Mr Donaghy also called for bringing the "less popular routes" of transport back under public ownership.

When pressed on the difference at a local level between the Conservative Party and Reform UK, Mr Donaghy said: "We're more proactive, we don't wait for problems to come to us."

Andrew Gray, Green Party

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The final stop on the trip was Sunderland station, to meet Andrew Gray.

He is an archivist in Durham and is running to be a Green Party mayor.

Mr Gray's promise is to bring in a "mass home insulation programme, phased in, tackling different houses at different times".

Although standing for the role of mayor, he does not support the whole concept of the role. But, Mr Gray said: "You have to be realistic, that's how we're going to get devolution, and that's why I'm standing for election".

Polls for the North East Mayor election will open on Thursday 2 May, with a result expected to be delivered a day later, on Friday 3 March.

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