Metro boss wants extra security staff and more ticket barriers to combat

Anti-social behaviour has been on the rise on public transport in Newcastle.

<p>Ongoing development of Central Station Metro, Newcastle.</p>

Ongoing development of Central Station Metro, Newcastle.

Tyne and Wear Metro bosses want more staff and upgraded security infrastructure to crack down on violence and anti-social behaviour plaguing passengers, but warn that the network cannot become a “fortress”.

There have been a string of worrying incidents over recent weeks, including a Nexus worker being assaulted at Tynemouth station and two teenagers being attacked on the same night at Tynemouth and Palmersville – shocking events that have led some to call the Metro a “no go” area.

Extra security staff have been deployed to help combat large gangs of young people causing trouble around the rail system, with teams stationed in the current problem hotspots of Whitley Bay and Tynemouth every night.

During a Q&A session about safety issues on the Metro on Thursday, Nexus customer services director Huw Lewis said that keeping the 24 new temporary security staff for a year would cost £1.5m and warned it would not be financially feasible to have somebody stationed on every train and platform throughout the day.

Mr Lewis said: “But we do want more people on the system and we do want customers to see them, to be able to talk to them, to be able to raise concerns and ask questions. That is why we have brought in the security team, that is why we have increased the number of customer service staff from 100 to 120 and we want to take that further.

“We have to be mindful of the cost of doing that. The reason we want to invest in extra people is that we hope it will encourage more people to use the system and, therefore, it pays for itself.

“But we are not in a place where we can simply employ 200, 250 more people so that there is someone on every train and every station all day. And I would also say that I don’t think there necessarily needs to be.

“I could go through a station like Walkergate or Hadrian Road in the morning, in the afternoon, on many evenings and not have any trouble and feel safe.”

Mr Lewis also confirmed that Nexus would like to install more ticket barriers at stations as a means of deterring anti-social behaviour, with only 13 stations currently having ticket gates.

However, he warned that any new gates would also need to be permanently staffed and that not every station’s design would be suited to them.

Nexus recently completed a £4.3m upgrade of 640 CCTV cameras and is also planning to improve lighting at some stations, with Chichester in particular earmarked as one for improvement and called a “poor relation” compared to the new South Shields interchange.

However, Mr Lewis said that North East authorities working to tackle the root causes of the recent post-lockdown spike in trouble is ultimately needed to ensure Metro passengers feel safe.

He added: “You could spend a lot of money turning Metro into a fortress, or trying to, and I don’t think it would be as effective as people might imagine it would be. It is much more significant, I think, to be targeting those hotspots when they flare up and to be working with agencies in the community around dealing with the causes and dealing with what is behind the problem.”

The Nexus chief said: “I absolutely understand that people have concerns. I feel safe travelling on Metro, it is probably easy for me to say that because I am a middle-aged man. But I use it late in the evening and I would continue to be confident about doing that.

“Later in the evening I think the system is safe to use and I would have no hesitation in doing that.”