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METRO SERVICE: Customers could soon be able to use ‘pop card’ via smart phones

METRO SERVICE: Customers could soon be able to use ‘pop card’ via smart phones

A train next to the Metro depot in Cheswick Drive, Gosforth, Image: NCJ Media

Metro passengers will soon be able to use their pop cards by phone, according to a transport boss.

This was one of the measures currently being considered by Nexus in a bid to entice more passengers on to the light rail service.

This comes weeks after the operator predicted a severe budget deficit next year, with the end of bailout funding that has covered the network’s heavy losses since the Covid pandemic hit.

The Government’s insistence that a final £13m emergency support package, which runs out in April, will be the last help it provides has set alarm bells ringing once more over the perilous state of the Metro’s finances.

Forecasts released in September for 2022/23 estimate that the Metro faces a £16m shortfall, while there is a further £3.2m deficit relating to other Nexus services such as the Shields Ferry and ‘secured’ bus services that it pays private operators to run.

Speaking at Tuesday’s meeting of the Joint Transport Committee, Huw Lewis, customer service director at Nexus, outlined future measures to encourage people back on to public transport.

These include giving Android users the option to use their pop cards on their phone and a future offer that combines the savings offered by season tickets with the flexibility of pay as you go.

He said: “What we have seen is that people are not buying season tickets in anything like the numbers that they used to.

“Office workers are not going into work five days a week and when we survey office workers they are not expecting to come back five days a week.

“What they’re buying are day tickets and pay as you go tickets so we need to make that easier for customers.

“The purple Pop pay as you go card is an excellent product but we are going to take that further by putting it on to Android mobile phones.

“That will happen in the next couple of weeks and that’s a huge step forward in terms of convenience.

“That encourages people who are perhaps going [on the Metro] a couple of times for work to think ‘I’ll use the Metro for a later journey as well, later in the week or on the weekend’.

“We want to look at replacing, or putting alongside season tickets, something that uses that pay as you go principle so that a customer can sign a contract with us essentially to travel over the year and make pay as you go journeys as they go through the year at a discount to the normal price and top up when they want to.

“We think that might suit somebody that might be commuting two or three times a week different patterns different weeks and also wants to use Metro for leisure travel.”

The committee also heard from his colleague Martin Kearney, the company’s chief operating officer.

He gave a report on Nexus’ performance between June 27 and August 21.

He told councillors that  patronage was 33.2% above the target based on the recovery plan that was submitted to DfT back in April 2021.

He said: “Patronage has recovered more quickly than in 2021 than it did following the lifting of lockdown restrictions 12 months ago.

“I would like to highlight the amount of leisure and retail journeys taking place is a real positive and we are seeing a greater increase in usage specifically on Sundays.

“However, patronage does remain at 23.5% below the patronage levels of 2019 and 20.

“We are recovering very strongly and seeing some healthy numbers on the Metro.

“We launched ‘take the kids for free’ on Metro and Shields Ferry on July 19 and we have seen a huge success in take up while a 30% discount for those aged 19 to 21 was prepared for launch to coincide with the start of the university year.

“Again we have had a huge uptake to those offers. Complete package of discounts from birth to 21.”

 

Words: Herbert Soden, Local Democracy Reporter


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