Kevin Carr criticises the scheme, which has seen promised savings drop by £2m per year and promises of extra buses srapped
Go North East has criticised the proposed north east quality contract scheme, which is being scrutinised by councillors who vote on October 21.
Another step towards the Quality Contract implementation came on Friday, October 10, when the North East Combined Authority’s transport committee endorsed its plans.
Kevin Carr, Go North East Managing Director and Chairman of the North East Bus Operators Association, said: “We’ve always believed that risks and uncertainties of this unproven proposal were under-estimated, and the benefits would evaporate as reality set in. Just one year on the claimed savings are being scaled back, and the extra buses airbrushed out. Overall, this has effectively taken £40m of benefits out of the proposed scheme.”
The scheme as first presented in July 2013 promised savings of £7m a year, 18 extra buses, and that a contingency fund of £78m would be adequate.
In the revised scheme now being considered by the North East Combined Authority, the annual savings have shrunk to £5m, the 18 extra buses have been scrapped and the contingency fund has increased to £80m.
Kevin Carr said: “Benefits for passengers have been revised downwards, too. The claim for fares reductions, described last year as being as much as 2.5%, now appears to be around 1%, but in reality all fares under the scheme would rise by at least 10p a year – far more than recent bus fare rises for most people.
“Bus operators pointed out that the government is reviewing the benefits that passengers receive through Bus Service Operators’ Grant (BSOG), but the bus contract scheme has ignored this potential risk of a further £100m ‘hole’ in the scheme.”
“The scheme would also give the Combined Authority unlimited powers to increase fares as often and as high as it might wish and to reduce the number of buses in service by up to 10% without renegotiating the scheme contracts.
“The scheme is only feasible if the five local authorities in Tyne and Wear can commit to funding it to the tune of £51.2m a year, as well as underwriting the potential loss of BSOG of up to £10.1m annually.
“Despite Nexus’ claims to the contrary, the contract scheme creates new risks for our cash-strapped local councils, with no certainty of protecting Tyne and Wear’s bus system.”