Saturday, 28 April 2012

Buses should be an election issue, say NE Operators

North East Bus Operators Association, the umbrella organisation for the region’s bus operators, has
taken the argument over the future of Tyne and Wear’s buses to the county’s aspiring councillors.
Nexus and the Integrated Transport Authority are considering options for introducing either a
contract scheme or a method of working in partnership with bus companies to deliver better bus
services.
North East Bus Operators say the proposed contract scheme would lead to higher costs, fewer services and
is unworkable.
 Should Nexus run buses or stick to maintaining bus stops?
Now they’ve written to candidates in the forthcoming local elections to highlight the issues involved.
Tom Dodds, secretary of NEBOA, said: “We think it’s important that every councillor and aspiring
councillor is made very aware of the responsibilities that would be forced upon them by a contract
scheme.
“Contracts are being promoted as a ‘dream solution’ to funding problems confronting Nexus and
the ITA. The truth is that nine out of ten bus services in the county are already provided without
any call on Tyne and Wear’s council tax payers. Our fares are already amongst the cheapest in the
country.
“Seizing control of the county’s bus services simply moves the financial risk from the private sector
into the public sector, at a time when public sector finances are already facing swingeing cuts.”
“Working in partnership, where bus operators work together with local councils, Nexus and the ITA
to find real, affordable solutions to providing better bus services, is the only logical answer.”

The briefing document being sent to election candidates and sitting councillors points out that
when bus services were last under direct control in the 1980s, the cost to council tax payers was
spiralling out of control, almost doubling between 1977 and 1985. But costs have dropped
dramatically up to 2011, falling to about one quarter of the 1985 figure.
Mr Dodds said: “Transport is a major issue in the mayoral election in London and it is one of the
major areas of responsibility for our local councillors. Local voters ought to be asking very tough
questions of their candidates in our local elections. If the contract scheme goes ahead, it’s local
people who will have to pick up the bill.
“We estimate that the contract scheme could add up to £180 to every council tax bill in the county.
That’s just unaffordable, particularly when a partnership agreement could provide equally
effective bus services without having to call on extra public finances.
“A partnership agreement would enable local authorities, Nexus and the ITA to work together with
bus companies to provide real, measurable and sustainable improvements through a formally
agreed commitment.”

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