Wednesday 4 November 2015

T&W Quality Contract Refused

The Quality Contract Scheme (QCS) Board has published its report on the proposed Tyne and Wear QCS.

The report gives the board’s opinion that the scheme fails to meet the public interest criteria and concludes that:

  • Nexus failed to comply with the statutory requirements on consultation
  • the proposed scheme cannot demonstrate that it would increase use of bus services because its affordability is not demonstrated
  • service quality would improve
  • the proposed scheme would contribute to the implementation of the local transport policies
  • the proposed scheme does not provide value for money
  • the proposed scheme imposes disproportionate adverse effects on operators
The QCS Board, which is chaired by Traffic Commissioner for the North East of England, Kevin Rooney, was asked to examine the proposed quality contract scheme in October 2014.
The board held oral evidence hearings into the proposed scheme in July this year.
In a summary of the board’s opinion, the report notes:
This is the first time that the 15-year-old legislation supporting quality contract schemes has been put to the test. It seems to us, that the legislators probably had in mind that it would be tested in a rather smaller scale first.
By its very nature, everything that Nexus was trying to assess was a novel intervention. There was little, if any, truly relevant research for them to draw upon. It is the board’s view that they have done exceptionally well to get where they have got to today. It is always far easier to criticise, than to create.
In the voluntary partnership agreement, Nexus can be proud that it has led 3 bus companies to put forward a proposal that is in itself novel and groundbreaking, with the makings of potentially effective governance allowing local citizens real influence over their bus services.

It will be interesting to watch how those that have spent large sums of public money to support this scheme (in an area where passenger satisfaction is higher than anywhere else in the UK) now accept that buses are better left to those that have the skills to run them.
Already we are hearing misleading statements being churned out by those that should know better. Nick Forbes, leader of Newcastle City Council and transport lead for NECA, said: "Today is an exceptionally disappointing day for bus passengers.
"The proposals were put forward in the best interests of the travelling public." Has he not read what the QCS Board have said and that "the proposed scheme does not provide value for money". How can it be disappointing for bus passengers when "the scheme cannot demonstrate that it would increase use of bus services because its affordability is not demonstrated" 
What it proves is that it was doomed to failure from the start and that bus users are getting tremendous value for money from a service that takes very little from local taxes. The Tyne & Wear Metro blunders along, propped up by public money, what we don't want is that the buses are sucked into to the same pot with the attitude that "someone will pay for it" Those leading this scheme have admitted that it would soon run out of money.
What needs to happen now is that all parties sit down at the table and take up the offer of a soundly based Quality Partnership. The local bus companies possess all all the skills and knowledge to make the buses in Tyne & Wear even better than they are, providing that he councils and public bodies give buses the help they need to penetrate town and city traffic which is what the travelling public really want.
No more public money should be wasted on these hair-brained ideas. Maybe those responsible, should be investigated for trying to mislead the public and wasting public finances.

Newcastle councillor Greg Stone explains why the Tyne and Wear transport bid failed and what could happen next