The Metro network came to a standstill on Friday as train drivers went on a 48-hour strike amid an ongoing dispute with Nexus.

Drivers in the RMT union formed a picket line outside South Gosforth Metro station in Newcastle while commuters were forced to find alternative forms of transport.

There were no trains at all and no replacement buses, however bus operators pledged bigger and more frequent services through the weekend.

A number of people showed their support for those on strike, with cars beeping their horns in solidarity.

However there was also some abuse. One union member reported that a car driver shouted "greedy b*******" to them at the picket line.

RMT regional organiser Micky Thompson at the picket line at South Gosforth Metro station
RMT regional organiser Micky Thompson at the picket line at South Gosforth Metro station

Micky Thompson, RMT regional organiser for the North East, said they were disappointed to have to take industrial action but felt they had no choice.

He also apologised for the inconvenience caused to commuters.

He said: "I apologise profusely as a trade union. It's disappointing that we find ourselves having to take strike action.

"But I would like to say to your listening public - I have tried everything in my power to negotiate with this employer.

"I have also utilised the services of ACAS. We have approached Nexus directly to come back to the negotiating table."

One driver, who wished to remain anonymous, told ChronicleLive that "morale is at rock bottom" and added: "Working for Metro used to be like a family, everyone looked out for everyone.

"There is so much division now, so much mistrust, because of misinformation that has been allowed to perpetuate."

Drivers claimed the network had been running thanks to the goodwill of staff who, they said, worked on rest days, stayed late and provided flexibility.

However their family life and wellbeing was being affected because of their working conditions, they added.

One union member said: "The network has been run on goodwill but that goodwill has gone. Staff feel like they are under attack."

Unions chiefs have also accused Nexus bosses of lying about a 15% pay rise offer.

Mr Thompson rejected Nexus' claims that the union turned down a pay rise offer that would take drivers’ salaries to £46,000 by 2022.

Meanwhile, Metro bosses have said the union “seems confused” about what it wants and insist they have offered “a very good pay rise and new more flexible shift patterns” to reduce the service’s reliance on drivers working overtime.

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Speaking about the strike, Metro services director Chris Carson said: "It's really damaging for Nexus, it's really damaging for our customers and the businesses that depend on us.

"It's going to cost Nexus about £250,000 in lost revenue as well as compensating customers with passes - really damaging to everyone involved.

"We think this dispute is about pay. What's happened is we've had several meetings with the trade unions, we've agreed 24 of 26 of their aspirations for improvements to duties and rosters.

South Gosforth station with no passengers due to the strike.
South Gosforth station with no passengers due to the strike.

"We want some things in return and over the last few months the train crew have actually agreed to a lot of that, either in principle or actually.

"We know that there's a deal to be done and they do as well. Let's get back round the table, sort out the terms and conditions issues, put that and the 15% plus cost of living rises to the members and let the train crew decide."

The Metro network will remain closed on Saturday, when Newcastle United play Crystal Palace at St James' Park.