News: Collision course over who controls North East bus service

Here are a series of articles from the (Newcastle) Chronicle:

2nd October 2014: “North East councils and private bus operators are on a collision course over who runs the region’s bus system.  Metro operator Nexus want to create a London-style transport system which would mean the public body had the final say over where services should run as well as setting fares and timetables. They claim this will result in fares being capped, services improved, increased bus usage and the safeguarding of concessionary services.

Other proposals include changing all buses to a uniform red colour with Nexus branding, a touch card style ticketing system similar to the Oyster travel card used in London, and combined ticketing on routes that travel outside the Tyne and Wear authority area into Durham and Northumberland.

They estimate their plans would bring £272m of economic benefits to the region over a decade. With this blueprint in mind, they would ask bus operators to bid for the right to run the franchise.”

10th October: “The North East Combined Authority has taken another step toward imposing a ‘quality contracts scheme’ (QCS) for bus companies, after plans were endorsed by its transport committee. The move by the newly-formed authority – which will need to be passed by its leadership board later this month – would herald a new era of London-style bus powers, with councils having final say over where services should run and how often. Councillors heard bus fares in the region have risen by around 3% above RPI inflation each year since 1995. The plans came about as companies hit hard by the recession announced services would be cut, despite having a sizeable profit margin. Bernard Garner, director general of Nexus, told the committee the plans had passed a public interest test and that, following a consultation process, it viewed QCs as the best option.”

23rd September: ‘Bitterly-opposed plans to give councils control of bus services in the North East will be backed by Labour, it has emerged. …  At the Labour Party conference Shadow Transport Minister Mary Creagh paid tribute to proposals by the North East Combined Authority to introduce ‘quality contracts’ for bus operators in the region. “Buses are the lifelines of our cities, towns and villages. Two thirds of all journeys on public transport are on buses, yet they have become a Cinderella service. Bus services cut. Fares up by an inflation-busting 25% since 2010. Passenger numbers down outside London. People unable to get to work. The young, the poor, the disabled and the elderly – cut off from normal life. That must change.”

“So Labour will support any city that wants London-style buses and smart, integrated tickets to have them. I want to pay tribute to the combined authorities in the North East and West Yorkshire, who have spent the past four years trying to achieve better buses through a Quality Contract. I wish them luck. And in government they will have my full support.”