Following comments by Prime Minister Boris Johnson at a speech in Manchester last week, in which he said he wanted “higher frequency, low-emission or zero-emission buses, more bus priority corridors, a network that’s easier to understand and use,” North of Tyne Mayor Jamie Driscoll has said he will take up the Prime Minister’s offer to extend London-style bus networks to any area of the UK where local leaders want it, and that it would be fantastic if the local government delivers on the Prime Minister’s promise.
The Mayor is reported in the Evening Chronicle as saying: “The state of our buses here is a serious issue. It takes three and a quarter hours to get from Seahouses to Newcastle by bus – if that is the nearest college where you can study your subject or you are visiting a family member in hospital, it is impossible without a car,” and that taking more local control of bus services was already under discussion before the announcement.
In 2015, similar proposals to give Nexus power over bus services in the region were rejected having not been proven to provide value for money, nor demonstrating that they would increase bus use, as well as having a detrimental effect on bus companies. The mayor said that the previous attempt “was lost on a specific legal point and the powers that be didn’t allow us to do it. There were five tests and the case was not proven on the final economic test. It was the bus companies who opposed it. But I think it was the right thing to do then and it is the right thing to do now. And I think that if we had done it then we would not be facing the clean air tolls that we are now.”
According to Mr Johnson: “In London – where they have all these things – bus passenger journeys have risen by 97% in 25 years. In other metropolitan areas – where they do not – it has fallen by 34% over the same period,” whilst in Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham is already pushing ahead with plans bring bus services in the city under public control.
The PM also recently pledged to save Wrightbus, in a bid to ensure the UK becomes ‘the home of the electric vehicle.’