Stagecoach chairman Brian Souter has threatened to axe hundreds of buses if councils go ahead with takeover plans. Souter, who is one of Britain’s richest men, has said he will not work for a council-controlled bus network in Tyne and Wear.
He said he would rather axe 500 Stagecoach services and close depots than let councils have a say. He hit out at the “unreconstructed Stalinists” on the region’s transport authority as they prepare for London-style bus powers.
Under council-backed plans transport group Nexus is putting together what is expected to be the UK’s first Quality Contract, in which only buses with a council-contract can operate. The plans would introduce a similar system to that in London, in which Stagecoach operates at a profit. All buses would be branded the same, with local authorities setting fares, time tables and routes.
Call in the lawyers
Nexus came up with the plans amid concern the current bus network did not do enough to justify a multi-million pound council subsidy. Bus companies have consulted lawyers on fighting the plans, which Nexus said could be in place by 2015.
In the North East Labour has backed the bus plans, with Wearside MP Bridget Phillip leading a campaign for better bus services. She said: “From the start, Stagecoach’s opposition has been characterised by scaremongering and negative tactics. Under Quality Contracts, they would be free to bid to run routes exactly as they do in London. Mr Souter’s sole concern is to defend his inflated profit margins in the region. We need a bus system that works in the best interests of local people.”