North East Bus Operators Association (NEBOA), the umbrella organisation for the region’s bus operators, has written to candidates in the forthcoming local elections to highlight issues involved in a proposed Quality Contract (QC) scheme.
Nexus and the Integrated Transport Authority (ITA) are considering options for introducing either a QC or a method of working in partnership with bus operators to deliver better bus services. NEBOA says the scheme would lead to higher costs, fewer services and is unworkable. It estimates the contract scheme could increase every council tax bill in the county by £180.
The briefing document being sent to election candidates and sitting councillors points out when bus services were last under direct control in the 1980s, the cost to council tax payers almost doubled between 1977 and 1985. The operators claim costs have dropped dramatically up to 2011, falling to around one quarter of the 1985 figure.
Tom Dodds, Secretary of NEBOA and Stakeholder Manager at Go North East, said: “We think it’s important every councillor and aspiring councillor is made very aware of the responsibilities that would be forced upon them by a contract scheme. Contracts are being promoted as a ‘dream solution’ to funding problems confronting Nexus and the ITA. The truth is, nine out of 10 bus services in the county are already provided without any call on Tyne and Wear’s council tax payers. Our fares are already amongst the cheapest in the country. Seizing control of the county’s bus services simply moves the financial risk from the private sector into the public sector, at a time when public sector finances face swinging cuts.
“Working in partnership to find real, affordable solutions to providing better bus services, is the only logical answer.”