Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Hundreds of Buses Could Face the Axe

Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Hundreds of Buses Could Face the Axe

Article excerpt

Byline: Adrian Pearson Regional Affairs correspondent adrian.pearson@ncjmedia.co.uk

HUNDREDS of buses will be axed if councils go ahead with takeover plans, one of Britain's richest men has warned.

Stagecoach chairman Sir Brian Souter has said he will not work for a council-controlled bus network in Tyne and Wear.

The mu lit-millionaire has said he would rather axe 500 Stagecoach services and close depots than let councils have a say.

He has hit out at the "unreconstructed Stalinists" on the region's transport authority as they prepare for London-style bus powers.

Under council-backed plans transport group Nexus is putting together what is expected to be the UK's first Quality Contract, in which only buses with a council-contract can operate. The plans would introduce a similar system to that in London, in which Stagecoach operates at a profit. All buses would be branded the same, with local authorities setting fares, time tables and routes.

Nexus came up with the plans amid concern the current bus network did not do enough to justify a multi-million pound council subsidy.

Council transport officials have said that without the take over they are likely to axe school buses, concessionary fares and some Metro discounts. Already bus companies have consulted lawyers on fighting the plans, which Nexus said could be in place by 2015.

Speaking at a bus conference, Sir Brian said: "They sold the bus companies to us in the first place, knowing what the system was. They took the money off us, we bought it in good faith.

"We have invested in it every year. We have, I think, had one day or two days industrial stoppage in the two decades that we have been running it.

"We are dealing with a bunch of unreconstructed Stalinists who are completely driven by political dogma. The first contract that they put out on my business I'm out of Tyne and Wear completely, and they can buy 500 buses and find four bus depots. …

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