Tyne & Wear Public

Transport Users Group



Press Release: Thursday, November 30th 2017


Passengers condemn another East Coast bail out


Tyne and Wear Public Transport Users Group have condemned the announcement that the East Coast rail franchise will be terminated three years early, in 2020, as a bad deal for passengers as well as tax payers. The group are calling for the service to be returned to public hands, as it had been until 2015.


Vicki Gilbert, the Chair of the Tyne and Wear passenger group said, “It is unacceptable that private companies Stagecoach and Virgin will effectively be bailed out if they are allowed to walk away early from the franchise deal. The companies would save hundreds of millions of pounds they are due to pay the Treasury in the last years of the franchise. They have been asking to renegotiate the franchise deal because they have not been making enough profit.


“This shows that the franchising system has failed again, just like when GNER and National Express failed and handed back the keys, leaving the public to pick up the costs.


“We campaigned for the East Coast Mainline rail service to remain in public hands when it had been run in-house by the publicly owned body, Directly Operated Railways. The service had improved markedly during that period and over £1bn was returned to the public purse instead of going into private company profits for shareholders.


“We call on the Government to scrap this plan and instead return the East Coast Mainline to  in-house public operation and invest the money coming directly to the Treasury into improving the service and lowering fares, as this will be a far better deal for passengers.”


For interviews and further information, please contact Vicki Gilbert, Chair of TWPTUG on 07753 137399 or [email protected]





Tuesday March 28th 2016: For immediate release


Bringing Metro back into public hands will be good for passengers but we urgently need new trains


We welcome the return of the Metro to being publicly run, but the Government must agree immediately to invest in the desperately needed new trains, say passenger group.


The North Tyneside Public Transport Users Group welcomes Nexus taking back operation of the Metro when the current contract with DB Regio ends this Friday. This will end the split between a private company operating the trains and the public body, Nexus.


However, the trains are still the same 37 year old ones which are still going to pose a huge challenge to keep running reliably. The Department for Transport has been sent a bid by Nexus for the funding for the construction of a new fleet of trains, which will cost around £540m. There must be no delay in the decision to fund the new trains.


Vicki Gilbert, Chair of Tyne and Wear Public Transport Users Group, said:


“We are pleased that the problems especially delays are at last being taken in hand by Nexus and are relieved our elected representatives agreed the end of the contract with DB Regio. We see that this is the result of pressure from groups like ourselves and many members of the public.


The removal of the split between a private company and the public body will improve the service, with better maintenance, more new driver training and clearer communication with passengers.


But Nexus can’t work miracles with the old trains as even with improved maintenance, they will inevitably break down more and more. Passengers are demanding urgent investment by the Government in the Metro for the new trains. It would be outrageous if the Government delayed on agreeing the funding, when London has had several new fleets of underground trains and continues to have new trains including the new Crossrail line.


We want the return of the Metro to the wonderful, much-admired light rail system that was so reliable under Nexus management in the past.”




Further information/Interviews:


Vicki Gilbert, Chair of TWPTUG


Joint letter to the Times from Cat Hobbs of We Own It.

Sent 24 February 2017


Next week (Wednesday 1st March), the Bus Services Bill is back for debate in the House of Commons. This will give local authorities new powers to plan their local bus services.


However, in amongst the measures set to improve buses, we fear the government may reintroduce a ban on local authorities in England setting up new bus companies. The House of Lords removed this controversial clause - we're calling on the government to drop the ban for good.


There are already 11 local authority-run bus companies across the UK, providing some of the most successful bus services in the country. They pick up awards for excellent customer service, invest heavily and run environmentally friendly fleets.


Why would the government ban English local authorities from following the lead of providers like Nottingham City Transport and Reading Buses? The public is strongly opposed to Clause 21, by a ratio of 3:1. Councils need to be free to choose whatever option is best for their communities.


Yours sincerely,


Cat Hobbs, Director, We Own It


Paul O'Brien, Chief Executive, Association for Public Service Excellence


Alan Cavill, Director of Place, Blackpool Council


Stephen Joseph, Executive Director, Campaign for Better Transport


Marc Stears, Chief Executive, New Economics Foundation


Graham Chapman, Deputy Leader, Nottingham City Council


Martin Garrett, Chair, Transport for Greater Bristol Alliance


Dr Ian Taylor, Director, Transport for Quality of Life


Vicki Gilbert, Chair, Tyne and Wear Public Transport Users Group


Bobby Morton, National Officer for Passenger Transpor t, Unite


Alexandra Runswick, Director, Unlock Democracy


Cat Hobbs


We Own It

01865 403 251

07923 271 431

[email protected]

The Old Music Hall, 106-108 Cowley Road, Oxford, OX4 1JE


Letter from Vicki Gilbert, Secretary of North Tyneside Public Transport Users Groupetter to the Chronicle, Journal and Sunday Sun


7th November 2016


Dear Editor,

We have a real opportunity to get the sort of improvement to our bus services that would make a huge difference to all of us. This is because the Bus Services Bill is currently going through parliament. What we need are properly regulated buses so that we get lower fares and more and better services. This would help passengers and encourage more people to use the buses resulting in reduced congestion, dangerous air pollution and social isolation.


The Bus Services Bill would allow councils to bring in a franchise system, where private bus companies bid to run services which are regulated and set by the councils. In a system like this, which is what happens in London, the councils have to give the public a real say in the decisions about services and the bus companies cannot simply chop and change routes, pick and choose where they go, when, and how much the fares are.


However we need your help, as the Government wants to restrict the power to bring in a franchising system only to the councils which agree a Devolution Deal and create an Elected Mayor.  We want our MPs and local councillors to work to prevent them restricting it in this way, so that our council as part of the North East Combined Authority could bring this in and would not have to be referred back to the Government  Ministers for permission.


We also want the removal of a clause, Clause 21, from the bill because it would prevent any more local authorities setting up, owning and running their own bus company. Twelve local authorities already do this successfully across the UK including Nottingham and Reading. The North East Combined Authority’s Transport Committee have voted to oppose this Clause and one of our local MPs Alan Campbell has stated his opposition to it. Mr Campbell was one of the 40 Labour, Green and Lib Dem MPs who attended a recent event to mark the 30th Anniversary of bus deregulation. That decision to deregulate the buses everywhere except London, was made by the Thatcher government and has clearly been a disaster for passengers paying higher fares, other road users facing worse congestion and everyone breathing in our more polluted air.


We would urge everyone to write to their MPs to ensure we move towards a properly regulated bus service run in the public interest. This is the only way we will get the fully integrated public transport we deserve and which will be significant in reducing climate change as well.


Our local  North Tyneside public transport users group is meeting to discuss our campaign on buses, new Metro trains and other issues. You are invited to come along on November 17th, 5-7pm at Whitley Bay Library, York Road, NE26 1AB.


Press release 1st October 2015






It has been known since the late 90’s by our governments that diesel fuel causes deaths from NO2 and particulate emissions from diesel cars. Recent research estimates there are over 500* premature and unnecessary deaths throughout Tyne & Wear , alone, each year from illnesses such as: heart disease, strokes, lung cancer, asthma and also reduced sperm count in men. The public here need to be aware, about why there has been so little reduction in the levels of pollution in our towns and cities. Because, at the same time, government policy has been to persuade drivers to buy diesel cars.


Why have successive governments in both the UK and the EU allowed lobby groups from the car manufacturers and diesel industry to have such a level of influence that has seen vast government subsidies to diesel cars? Why have our pol political representatives been supporting and subsidising a product that is so dangerous to everyone’s health?


The justification given was that UK governments wanted to reduce carbon emissions, which cause climate change/global warming, and claimed that diesel fuel looked effective in that sense, despite no informed public debate. But, at the same time they had received scientific research that warned them about the enormous health risks associated with diesel fuel. Both Labour and Conservative governments have known about the health risks associated with diesel fuel all the time they have been promoting and subsidising its use on behalf of the car manufacturers.


Corporations will always go for profit and the VW case has shown they will cheat at any cost to the public health and yes, diesel cars may be cheaper to run in money terms but this now has to be set against the number of unnecessary deaths and the polluted air we all have to breathe.


Isn’t it time we had effective regulation and testing of these vehicles ie independent of the car manufacturers? It is all our responsibility to lobby our representatives, to represent us and our children. At present, one in eight of our children suffer from asthma, directly linked to the emissions from diesel cars. Campaign groups for tackling climate change and for cleaner air have argued that the only sensible solution is a limit to car use and have greater investment in public transport.


If you would like to join us in our work or know more about us see www.twptug.org.uk or email [email protected]


Vicki Gilbert, chair, Tyne and Wear Public Transport Users Group

* Report by Public Health England April 14



Letter as published in the "The Journal" - 15 June 2013


Letter to the Editor


I am delighted to reassure Geoff Holmes (The Journal letters, June 11) that there are already campaigners working to stop the re-privatisation of the East Coast Main Line rail service! Geoff's letter was a very welcome response to the article last Thursday and he can get involved with the campaign by linking up with our Tyne and Wear Public Transport Users Group. We have taken a strong position that East Coast must continue in public hands, as it has proved that it is better than the private companies for both passengers and taxpayers. We were in fact meeting with a senior East Coast director last Thursday afternoon and he told us that passenger satisfaction is at a record high (92% overall). Of course the terrible weather we had last winter has affected performance badly and Network Rail must invest more to make the line more resilient in these chaotic climate times, which will save money in the long run. He also confirmed that more money has been returned to government while publicly run, than any other previous franchisee on the line.



I have also started a campaign on the website Digital Democracy where people can vote in favour of keeping East Coast public. Let's kick up enough of a row about this, so that the Government has no alternative but to do a u-turn like they did on our forests. We will be working with national organisations like the Campaign For Better Transport and the rail unions to build this campaign. This vital infrastructure for the whole NE region must be run in the most efficient way possible, which means keeping it publicly run.



Shirley Ford, South Shields






Shirley Ford is the Press Officer for the Tyne and Wear Public Transport Users Group. Both she and the chair of TWPTUG, Vicki Gilbert are available for interview or comment.