North East Quality Contract decision delayed

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Nexus asks for more time to prepare a response, delaying the decision until the end of October

The Quality Contract Scheme (QCS) board has confirmed that oral evidence sessions into the proposed scheme will now take place in July, meaning the final report will be delayed.

The revised timetable means the final report is expected to be published by October 31, 2015, instead of May.

The announcement follows a directions hearing in London on February 25, 2015, after Nexus asked for more time to prepare a response to the operators’ challenges to the proposed quality contract scheme. The QCS board agreed to postpone the hearings until July in the interests of fairness to all parties. The bus operators agreed that the hearing dates scheduled for March and April could not be fulfilled.

The revised timetable leading to publication of the QCS board report is as follows:

March 13: Nexus to submit written evidence and matters of issue in response to the QCS board and operators.
April 17: Rebuttal evidence from the operators is to be provided to the QCS board and the other parties.
May 15: Statements of agreed points and matters still at issue to be provided.
June 4: QCS board programming meeting (London).
June 26: Skeleton arguments to be submitted by all parties.
July 13-17: Oral evidence sessions.
July 20-24: Oral evidence sessions.
September 11: Written closing submissions.

Chairman of the QCS board, Kevin Rooney, has written to the Secretary of State for Transport to confirm the board’s revised timetable.

Kevin Carr, Managing Director of Go North East, said: “Nexus has been working on its scheme for almost four years, so it’s surprising that they need even more time to produce evidence to support it. The thousand-page report to the North East Combined Authority last October seems not to have been enough.

“We have provided the Quality Contract Board with a considerable amount of expert evidence that we believe makes a compelling case for the quality contract scheme to be abandoned in favour of partnership. A partnership could have been in place two years ago.

“This delay by Nexus causes yet more uncertainty for our passengers and staff.

“It also begs the question if a quality contract scheme on this scale can ever be made to work.”

A Stagecoach spokesman told CBW: “The delay in the process is solely at the request of Nexus. Therefore, it is a matter for Nexus to justify the additional cost to taxpayers and bus operators, as well as the continued
uncertainty for bus employees.”