A revolution in 10 minutes

Plans for a revolutionary new transport scheme will be announced today to tackle rush-hour congestion in the North-East.

Go NorthEast MD Peter Huntley

Plans for a revolutionary new transport scheme will be announced today to tackle rush-hour congestion in the North-East.

A park and ride system giving commuters a guaranteed 10-minute journey time from the MetroCentre to Newcastle City Centre will begin later this month.

The seven-month trial is aimed at helping workers beat the traffic to get across the River Tyne at peak times.

If successful, the jam-busting scheme could be replicated around the region.

The Go North East venture will be the first commercial park and ride scheme to operate in the region.

It will use dedicated bus routes south of the Tyne, and have priority at traffic lights, to ensure a 10-minute journey time to Gateshead Interchange, Dean Street in Newcastle, and 15 minutes to Central Station.

Drivers can park at the MetroCentre's coach park and use minibuses to get into Newcastle or the X66 bendy CentreLink buses to travel to Gateshead.

The scheme has been backed by Gateshead Council, the MetroCentre and Tyne and Wear public transport body Nexus.

Go NorthEast managing director Peter Huntley said: "If we're serious about reducing road congestion then better public transport and park and ride schemes have a key role to play.

"This is an innovative attempt to do something about it and it's good to see so many organisations working together.

"The plan is to use the existing infrastructure to see whether there is a good appetite among regional commuters for a service like this. There are very few schemes like it in the North of England."

Gateshead council cabinet member for transport David Bollands said: "Any scheme which reduces the number of vehicles attempting to use the River Tyne crossings will reduce congestion and improve the environment.

"We believe park and ride schemes could make a huge impact on traffic congestion, and we are currently examining a number of other sites across the borough with a view to bringing more such schemes into use."

The council's head of transport and highways, Nick Clennett, moved to allay fears that the use of the MetroCentre as the starting point for the service could add more cars to the crowded A1. He said: "It's very unlikely that a scheme like this would cause additional congestion on the A1 as the people this is most likely to appeal to will already be on the A1 in their cars."

Mike Parker, spokesman for the North East Chamber of Commerce, which has run the Go For Jobs campaign in partnership with The Journal to stop congestion damaging the region's economy, said: "We're fully in favour of park and ride schemes.

"We would be keen to see more park and rides introduced if it would ease congestion around the city centres, and particularly those that would also remove traffic from the A1." Steve Beverley, sustainable travel manager at MetroCentre said: "We are always very enthusiastic about helping to ease traffic congestion at peak periods, promoting the regional public transport infrastructure and in the long term helping the environment."

A Nexus spokesman said: "Park and ride offers fresh choice to commuters fed up with traffic jams, and have been successful in Durham and in other parts of the country.

"While Nexus has helped with developing park and ride from MetroCentre, and the CentreLink bus-only road is key to its success, this is a commercial enterprise by Go NorthEast."

---------------------------------------------------------

How it works:

The new system will use CentreLink, a bus-only road between MetroCentre and Gateshead, plus traffic lights that change in favour of the bus as it approaches.

It allows buses to avoid bottlenecks around the Redheugh Bridge, Tyne Bridge and A184 Askew Road.

It will start from the MetroCentre coach park, with the X67 park and ride buses cruising along the south bank of the Tyne, crossing the Swing Bridge and up the bus-only Side and Dean Street towards Monument.

The services to Newcastle, along with the X66, will run from 7am to 9am. Return journeys, from Dean Street, Market Street, Grainger Street and Central Station in Newcastle, and from Gateshead Interchange, will run between 4pm and 6pm.

The service will operate every weekday, apart from bank holidays, for a trial period from March 26 until October 19.

Commuters will be able to sign up by calling (0191) 422-9272, or by using the www.simplygo.com website from March 18.

Passengers will need to commit to using the service for a minimum of one week and a maximum of 30 weeks.

Those who do will receive a parking permit and their own parking bay at the MetroCentre. The service will cost £12 per week per person, reduced to £10 per person if two or more people use the same car.

People signing up for four weeks will pay £40 per person or £35 per person for people sharing.

Journalists

David Whetstone
Culture Editor
Graeme Whitfield
Business Editor
Mark Douglas
Newcastle United Editor
Stuart Rayner
Sports Writer