In a summary of the board’s opinion, the report notes: “This is the first time that the 15-year-old legislation supporting QCS has been put to the test. It seems to us, that the legislators probably had in mind that it would be tested in a rather smaller scale first.
“By its very nature, everything that Nexus was trying to assess was a novel intervention. There was little, if any, truly relevant research for them to draw upon. It is the board’s view that they have done exceptionally well to get where they have got to today. It is always far easier to criticise, than to create.
“In the Voluntary Partnership Agreement, Nexus can be proud that it has led three bus companies to put forward a proposal that is in itself novel and ground-breaking, with the makings of potentially effective governance allowing local citizens real influence over their bus services.”
> Stagecoach reaction
Commenting on the Review Board findings, Stagecoach Group Chief Executive Martin Griffiths said: “Nexus’ franchising plans envisaged no more buses, no new routes and no more services. When subjected to proper public scrutiny, it admitted its plan had a close to one in three chance of financial failure, it had no money to fund the bus network after 10 years and it had made numerous multi-million-pound mistakes in its calculations.
“We would urge the North East Combined Authority to respect the findings of the Review Board, and put passengers and local people first, by abandoning the misguided franchising plans. Instead, we call on them to work in partnership with bus operators to build on Tyne and Wear’s excellent bus network and deliver on our joint responsibility to give local people even better bus services.”
> Nexus reaction
Tobyn Hughes, Managing Director of Nexus, said: “We are extremely disappointed that the Board’s opinion is negative regarding the proposal, and there are aspects of it that we simply do not agree with. Of particular concern is that the Board took a highly pessimistic and surprising view of financial risks, suggesting that Nexus must budget for costs to be up to 40% higher than we know them to be, while at the same time suggesting the bus companies should be compensated out of public funds for missing out on future profits from the very same network of routes.
“We simply disagree with many of the Board’s conclusions, and we will be discussing next steps with the North East Combined Authority.”
+ More views and analysis in next week’s issue.