23 Nov 2011

Councils bid to take back Tyne and Wear routes

Bus services on Tyneside are facing a massive shake-up in a ground-breaking plan. City leaders will this week be told to authorise Nexus, the organisation which owns the Metro system, to kick-start a process which will see London-style bus control powers returned to Tyne and Wear’s five councils.
Their request will end 25 years of bus operators controlling which services go where, and at what cost, as the councils effectively move to renationalise every bus route in Tyneside, with Nexus tasked with handing out one bus contract covering the entire system. Council leaders are to be told bus firms have soaked up taxpayer funds in exchange for rising costs and unreliable services, and that the time for change has finally come.
The move follows a damning report into bus operators by the Competition Commission which said passengers had lost out when bus operators Arriva and Go North East carved up patches between them.

Nexus will tell a meeting of the Integrated Transport Authority this Thursday that the major bus firms have failed, with frequent changes to services creating passenger confusion and a lack of stability. It is thought there are currently more than 100 different tickets available in Tyne and Wear. Between them the five finance departments in Newcastle, Gateshead, North and South Tyneside and Sunderland spend more than £59m a year of taxpayers’ money on bus subsidies and concessionary fares.
At Thursday’s meeting, Nexus is expected to be given the go-ahead to spend six months outlining what it would do if it took control of buses. The major firms would be asked to come up with an alternative version of this and in May next year the two will be judged.

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