The days of services being cancelled or curtailed on the Tyne and Wear Metro because of driver shortages will hopefully be a thing of the past from next spring after the announcement of the biggest ever driver training school since the service began in 1980. 30 new drivers are being taken on during September and October with the plan that they will be fully qualified by March and April 2021.
Nexus had increased the number of drivers they could train in any one year back in September 2019 from 24 to 48 but the pandemic put paid to the programme earlier this year when 16 drivers were ready and waiting to start their training in May. The lack of training in this period has caused significant driver shortages with forecasts that the requirements in December 2020 are 10% below requirements and 13% below requirements in January 2021.
Driver shortages have long been a problem for the Tyne and Wear Metro with many drivers who qualify not staying long as they then move on to main line railway companies where the pay and conditions are considered better. That is why the increase in numbers who could be trained was introduced but this was affected by national assessment centres (where candidates are put through aptitude tests) having to close.
Chris Carson, Metro Operations Director, said: “This is the biggest ever intake of trainee drivers in Metro’s 40 years of operations. We’re really looking forward to getting this up and running after the major setback that lockdown created for our training programme. We need to train more drivers and we have been unable to do that for six months. When these latest driver schools are completed by next spring we will be back to where we need to be in terms of train crew numbers. Our new trainees have had a long wait to get started, which can’t have been easy for them. I wish them well as they start the process of learning how to drive a Metro train on the network, which is part of everyday life for so many people in our region.”