Thursday, 5 April 2012

Stagecoach Fury over Quality Contract Proposals

Until now, Stagecoach have remained strangely quiet over the flawed Nexus/ITA plan to take over bus services in the Tyne Wear area. But now it appears that during a recent meeting, Stagecoach launched a blistering attack on transport chiefs who were accused of “blackmailing” firms into handing-over bus routes.
 Stagecoach run a dedicated Newcastle - Metrocentre service
but Go North East also compete on this route by directing
a number of their services via the Metrocentre.
The claim was made during crunch talks between council transport bosses and bus companies such as Stagecoach, Go North East and Arriva.

In minutes of the meeting, which descended into a blazing row for large parts, bus bosses admitted they will refuse to consider one-size-fits-all tickets as long as Nexus – the group running transport for councils – keeps on with a controversial plan.
The ITA are considering introducing a Quality Contract Scheme, bringing in powerful contracts which see councils set bus routes, times and prices.

Les Warnford from Stagecoach said he “would not see his buses taken away by some foreign train operator”, as he believes has been the case with Metro, adding “Nexus and the transport authority were operating in the same camp as Marx, Lenin and Trotsky.”
He added: “If the transport authority were successful in the European Court they would need to be prepared to take over bus services straight away, as Stagecoach would immediately cease operations.
“Stagecoach would not hand over any of its depots to Nexus; the company would move its buses elsewhere and make all staff redundant.”
 Stagecoach has invested heavily in the Tyne & Wear fleet
over the past few years, including a batch of ADL hybrids.
However, since the announcement about the proposed bus
takeover, no Stagecoach bids for Green Bus Funding have 

been forthcoming.

 The minutes show Mr Warnford said: “If Nexus want to discuss voluntary partnership agreements including a multi- operator ticket scheme then that would not be a problem, but it would not happen whilst there was a threat of a Quality Contract.”
Lib Dem Coun Greg Stone, sitting on the transport authority, said the minutes showed just how deep the dispute ran between the two sides. He added: “I hope that in what seems to be a Nexus versus bus company turf war the needs of the passenger comes first.”
A Stagecoach spokesman said: “Local people should be under no illusion that the flawed Nexus/ITA plan would lead to higher fares and reduced services for bus passengers already affected by rising costs. It would result in potential redundancies, loss of pensions and pay cuts for bus company employees.
“There would be a big extra financial burden on every household – even those who do not use buses – and the impact would be felt beyond Tyne and Wear in neighbouring areas in Northumberland and Durham.”
Nexus director general Bernard Garner said: “The Integrated Transport Authority has asked Nexus to look into options for improving bus services in Tyne and Wear. Although no decision has yet been taken over the best way forward, we are looking at both franchising, similar to the London system, and closer partnership working.
 If Nexus take over the running of all buses all vehicles would
end up in the  drab grey and red livery recently introduced
for those operated under contract.

“It’s fair to say that the initial reaction of some bus companies to this work has been quite hostile, but we hope to have more positive discussions over the next few weeks. We intend to report our findings to the ITA later this year.”
Focus Comment The posting below shows that there is no need whatsoever for Quality Contracts, especially in an area such as Tyne & Wear, where there is massive positive feedback from passengers who use the services. Quality Partnerships are a much better way of achieving positive results (see article below)
If the ITA and Nexus think that there are gaps in services that are not being filled commercially they should concentrate their efforts on filling these gaps by running tendered services. They shouldn't use the "sledgehammer to crack a nut" technique of taking over all the services, which has no justification in this case.
David Gambles