The centre piece of the Go Ahead Group’s two-year £30m investment in Go North East was unveiled last week with the opening of the new £8.5m Gateshead Riverside depot. Located on part of the site of the former Dunston power station, the new facility covers 5.75 acres and will be home to 160 buses. It replaces two existing depots in the area: the aged depot on Sunderland Road in Gateshead that dates from the 19th century and formerly ran 109 buses and the Winlaton depot which dates from the 1950s and operated 47 buses. The remaining few vehicles are transferring from the Salt Meadows Road depot. All staff will transfer creating a combined workforce of over 500 people, of which over 400 are drivers and 52 are engineers.
Managing Director of Go North East, Kevin Carr, commented: ‘We are incredibly proud to have celebrated our 100th year in 2013 and this investment marks our dedication to serving the people of the north east with modern, efficient vehicles.’
Speaking at the opening, Go Ahead’s Group Chief Executive, David Brown, commented: ‘just over the river is the registered office for the whole of Go-Ahead plc. That makes us the largest independent plc based in the North East, as well as one of the biggest regional employers. We have good loyal customers and are proud of the fact that our customer satisfaction rates are some of the best in the UK. But we know we can’t take that position for granted. We have to earn it every day through the services we provide and our relationships with our customers. So when Kevin, Colin and David presented the business case for this investment I was sure they would propose something of lasting benefit to the region.’
‘It is only by running a successful, profitable bus company that investment can be made. This brand new depot is solid proof of our long-term commitment to running buses in the North-East. This is an £8.5m investment which goes alongside the £22m spent on new buses over the last two years; every penny made in the North-East has been reinvested in the North-East. This investment is a statement of our intent. It represents the success of a first-class workforce operating in a commercial market delivering some of the most highly rated bus services in the country – including those in London – and I should know I used to run them.’
‘Partnership is the best way of maintaining the balance between commerce and government, which is essential for the future health of our cities. Partnership working is a core value for Go North East as it is for all Go Ahead companies. We stand for high quality transport for our passengers, and high quality partnership working with local government. That business model which has allowed this investment to take place is currently under threat from a proposed contract scheme. We remain resolute in our belief that commercial operations, enhanced by the partnership proposal offered by local operators, is the right way forward for the passengers and taxpayers of Tyne & Wear.’
‘May this new depot be a home to our operations here for another half a century or more, a contribution to the future success of the region, and to the service of those who rely on us every day.’
The Mayor of Gateshead, Councillor Jack Graham MBE, officially opened the new facility, unveiling a display cabinet containing a 1951 Gateshead seal that is to be displayed in reception beneath a plaque celebrating the launch ceremony. Referring to the newly launched Venture branding on a batch of Solo SRs operating in Consett, he recalled the part travelling on the old Venture company’s vehicles had played in his youth and in particular his courtship.
Highlighting the contribution of the bus to the local economy he said that more than one in four shoppers at the Metrocentre got there by bus. No doubt in deference to the occasion, no mention was made of Nexus’ much criticised plans for local franchising, before officially declaring the depot open.