'War' on the Way over Bus Takeover; Transport Plans Spark Controversy

The Journal (Newcastle, England), July 22, 2013 | Go to article overview

'War' on the Way over Bus Takeover; Transport Plans Spark Controversy


Byline: Adrian Pearson Regional Affairs Correspondent? 0191 201 6286 ? adrian.pearson@ncjmedia.co.uk

BUS routes are likely to be taken over by councils in what has been called a "declaration of war" on transport firms.

Representatives of the five Tyne and Wear councils will be recommended to back a controversial plan to effectively nationalise bus routes, granting the region London-style powers over bus fares, timetables and routes.

Nexus, which put together the recommendation for a quality contract process, says it must act now to prevent cuts to the PS10m-a year subsidised bus network and other benefits.

In a document prepared for members of the Integrated Transport Authority, councils are warned that without change cuts will mean the money behind all 255 school buses would be removed.

Another 200 bus routes would likely disappear, as would concessionary child fares. Also for the axe would be the Shields Ferry and the Metro Gold Card.

This can be avoided, councils have been told, if they take over the bus routes, using the subsidy and profits to grow the service.

Bus firms have already warned they will challenge the plans in the courts, insisting their voluntary plan to improve services can deliver transport benefits.

Councillors meeting to discuss the plans on Friday are likely to be divided, with opposition Conservative leader Peter Wood saying it "represents a declaration of war by Nexus on the bus companies".

He added: "Nexus believes Stagecoach, in particular, is making too much profit from its provision of bus services in Tyne and Wear.

"But would halving Stagecoach profits really finance better bus services across the board? In the post-war period this was Labour's argument in favour of nationalisation. …

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