Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Tyne and Wear QCS Hearings Delayed

The Tyne & Wear Quality Contract Scheme board has revised its schedule for oral evidence sessions which will mean that the final report is now likely in October rather than May 2015.

 The council funded Quaylink service has just been rescued
by Go North East as Newcastle and Gateshead Councils had
decided they could no longer afford to fund the service.
What hope then for funding the total network?
The announcement follows a hearing in London on 25 February after Nexus asked for more time to prepare a response to the operators’ challenges to the proposed quality contract scheme. The independent QCS board, chaired by north east traffic commissioner Kevin Rooney, agreed to postpone the hearings until July “in the interests of fairness to all parties” and says that bus operators agreed that the hearing dates scheduled for March and April could not be fulfilled.
The oral evidence sessions, which were due to start next week, will now take place on 13-17 and 20-24 July at a venue yet to be announced. In view of the revised timetable, the board says it cannot publish a final report in May and now intends to publish its final report by 31 October 2015. 

Kevin Carr, Go North East MD says: “Nexus has been working on its scheme for almost four years, so it’s surprising that they need more time to produce evidence to support it. The 1,000-page report to the North East Combined Authority last October seems not to have been enough.

 Operator liveries would be banished in Tyne & Wear if the
QC scheme gets the go ahead
“We have provided the QCS Board with a considerable amount of expert evidence that we believe makes a compelling case for the QCS to be abandoned in favour of partnership. A partnership could have been in place two years ago.”

Focus Comment 
So, more time required to to prepare a response to the operators’ challenges to the scheme. More public money to be spent on top of what has been spent so far. Those proposing the scheme have already been accused of issuing misleading and inaccurate facts and figures in an effort to support their desperate efforts to take control of the buses.
The bus operators have come up with an excellent partnership scheme with no cost or risk to local taxpayers and suddenly Nexus needs more time to come up with arguments against the partnership. What have they been doing since the partnership details were announced? 
They have tried to suggest that bus users will be better off with buses regulated as in London, but ignore the massive costs involved. A lesson should be learned by what is currently happening in Northern Ireland whose bus market is regulated. Despite regulation, bus and coach passenger numbers have fallen by 20% from 85m to 67m since 1985Translink estimates a loss of £14m in 2014-15 and that it wanted an average 10% rise in fares this year. Final details of cost cutting, and the effect on Northern Ireland services, have yet to be agreed. In February, fare increases of about 4% came into effect on bus and rail journeys in Northern Ireland. Further fare increases of up to 10% could be needed. 
This is likely to be the future for Tyne & Wear bus users if the Quality Contract Scheme is given the go ahead. One cynical view is that Nexus have used delaying tactics in the hope of a change of government and a more supportive view of Quality Contracts.