A RAIL strike timed to coincide with a major concert by boy band One Direction looks set to go-ahead after peace talks ended without agreement.
Around 50,000 young fans are expected at the Stadium of Light on Wednesday as the chart-topping band kick off the UK leg of their world tour.
But transport plans are facing disruption due to a 24-hour strike on the Tyne and Wear Metro system.
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The RMT union called the strike in a dispute over the sacking of one of its members and talks with DB Regio, the company contracted to run the Metro, broke down this afternoon without reaching a deal.
Operators insist they will continue to run a high frequency Metro service to ferry concert-goers between Newcastle and Sunderland despite the strike.
They say that while there will be a reduced service elsewhere on the system, they will continue to run trains every 15 minutes during the day, rising to every five minutes after 4pm.
Customer services and operations director Sharon Kelly said: “We are making the line between Sunderland and Newcastle a priority to support the concert, with frequent Metro services between the two cities.
“We have met with Sunderland City Council, the football club and police this afternoon to discuss these plans and we are happy the event, and travel to and from it, will run smoothly.”
Gary Hutchinson, commercial director at Sunderland football club, said there had been "a determination from everyone involved in the planning of the concert that those attending should not be inconvenienced by the proposed industrial action."
“We are confident that the contingency plans agreed by all parties will ensure that people coming to see One Direction will still be able to get to and from the Stadium of Light by Metro should they wish to," he said.
“I am delighted that we have found a positive resolution to the matter, it is very much business as usual as far as we are concerned and we are looking forward to a fantastic event for the city of Sunderland and the North-East region.”
Meanwhile, members of One Direction paid a flying visit to Sunderland yesterday (Tuesday) for rehearsals, enjoying a kickabout on the Stadium of Light pitch and posing for pictures wearing Sunderland’s famous red and white stripes.
Band member Niall Horan posted pictures of himself on Instagram in front of the North Stand, sporting an SAFC home strip. Each band member also received a personalised shirt as a gift from the club.
Promoters say there will be enhanced safety provision at the gig, given the huge number of younger fans expected to attend, with branded identification wristbands being made available to ticket holders under the age of 18.
The wristbands include areas for parents or guardians to fill in their name, mobile number and seat number as a safety precaution to assist in reuniting parents and children in the event that they become separated.
Wristbands will be available on the day from stewards, who will be offering assistance at entry points to the stadium.
Paul Weir, SAFC’s head of safety and security, said: “With a show of this nature we naturally expect to welcome large numbers of young people to the stadium and we need parents and guardians to help ensure that the event is a success.
“If accompanying children to the event we would ask parents to please make use of the free ID wristbands as a safety measure”.