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Squabbling Labour leaders endanger future Metro services

August 13, 2017 12:08 PM
The news that a meeting between North East Combined Authority (NECA) leaders and the Department for Transport to make progress on a £435 million funding deal for the urgently needed upgrade of the Tyne and Wear Metro was recently cancelled at short notice amid a political row should cause great concern to Tyne and Wear passengers.
NECA's Labour leaders seem to have learnt nothing from the shambolic failure of the North East Combined Authority devolution deal, where the failure of North East council leaders to agree amongst themselves and their failure to do a deal with the Government ended up costing the region dearly.
It is no secret that the Metro will be unable to operate a full service after 2020 as more and more ageing Metro cars become unserviceable. This should be focusing the minds of political leaders to ensure that an investment deal is secured as quickly as possible.
Many may feel that PFI funding isn't the best solution. But the reality is that NE councils simply can't afford to fund this themselves. Getting agreement for significant funding from Government is critical, and time is fast running out. North East Labour politicians weren't complaining when PFI deals saw dozens of schools and hospitals upgraded in their constituencies under Blair and Brown.
It is no wonder that the North East lags so far behind other regions in securing transport investment if the squabbling of Labour leaders continues to hold this region back. Securing the active co-operation of Government is vital. Labour leaders will be to blame if they fail again this time.
We have already seen the expensive collapse of the misconceived Project Orpheus street trams project and of the Quality Contract Scheme bus plans. The travelling public simply cannot afford another high profile public transport failure by NECA and Nexus.
Every further week lost is a week nearer towards public transport chaos as Metro grinds to a halt after 2020. Rather than spoiling for a fight with Government, leaders need to get on with sealing a Metro deal, and working together to get the best for the region.
Cllr Greg Stone (Lib Dem)
Opposition spokesman on transport
Newcastle City Council