Still on track – leading a public service through a pandemic towards a brighter future

February 3, 2021

Despite the challenges caused by COVID-19, Martin Kearney, Nexus’ chief operating officer, says the future remains bright for the operator, the North East and its people.

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2020 started brightly for Nexus.

A new chief operating officer, plans for Metro’s 40th anniversary celebrations and the announcement of a £362 million contract with Swiss train builder Stadler for 42 new trains.

But as we know, 2020 did not go as anyone had planned.

Martin Kearney, the new chief operating officer, had returned to the UK after seven years in New Zealand and Australia, and was quickly faced with passenger numbers on Metro dropping by 95 per cent as the pandemic took hold.

Martin says: “Looking back, it seems like so much longer than a year ago, it’s been a period of constant change for everyone.

“The initial drop in patronage was a huge challenge financially, but not our only challenge.

“We had to adapt quickly, introducing new COVID- 19-safe measures for our customers and frontline staff.

“And we did it; Metro never stopped running, proving its worth for key workers and those making essential journeys.

“We often say we’re part of everyday life, and it’s true.

“There are few people in Tyne and Wear whose lives aren’t touched in some way by Nexus, and we’re extremely proud our services were maintained for those who really needed us.”

Looking forward, plans are in place to welcome back those customers who have stayed away from public transport.

A recovery plan has been submitted to the Treasury setting out Nexus’ plans for Metro to return stronger, and Martin has a clear idea of how he can make that happen.

He says: “Our transport has never been cleaner or safer, which is reflected in some of our highest ever customer satisfaction scores.

“Once restrictions are eased, it’s vital we welcome passengers back, and not just for us.

“Public transport will be essential in the regrowth of our local economies post-COVID-19.

“We know we’ve got an important part to play in improving the fortunes of everyone in Tyne and Wear, with strong, safe transport networks now and in the future.”

What is also clear is that Metro – along with bus companies – will need additional funding from the Government while they build passenger numbers back up.

While a lot of Martin’s time in charge has been dominated by leading Nexus’ response to COVID-19, other work has still progressed at pace, particularly for the new Metro fleet.

In Nexus’ largest ever public consultation, more than 23,000 responses were received on features of the new trains, while virtual reality headsets gave train drivers an immersive experience into the new drivers’ cabs, providing an invaluable opportunity for their feedback.

Construction work also continued, with a new depot at Howdon to house trains while the existing depot at Gosforth is rebuilt for the new fleet, and the completion of the Nexus Learning Centre, at South Shields, providing bespoke training facilities.

Martin has nothing but praise for his teams.

He adds: “They’ve been outstanding, dealing with huge changes to how they work and yet we’re still seeing successes across the business.

“It’s crucial we keep up all the good work, to take us forward, and emerge from this stronger.

“We’re ready to provide a full service as soon as we can, to support our passengers and the economy and I’m optimistic about the future of the North East.”

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