Bus consultation labelled ‘a sham’

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A CONSULTATION into changes to transport services was today called “a sham”.

Bus operator Stagecoach has hit out at Nexus which wants to create a new Quality Contract Scheme (QCS).

The organisation , which has bus services in Sunderland, is accusing Nexus of keeping the cost hidden.

It said Nexus has already decided to introduce a new quality contract scheme, which would see it act on behalf of the Tyne and Wear Integrated Transport Authority (ITA) and the area’s five councils.

But bus firms want a partnership between the region’s transport authority and operators instead.

Phil Medlicott, managing director of Stagecoach North East, said: “We have real concerns that Nexus has already made up its mind and that the process it is going through is a sham.

“It has been deliberately obstructive in providing operators with information to allow us to assess its proposals.

“Nexus officials are also keeping secret the huge costs that setting up a QCS would inevitably involve.

“They are deliberately keeping council taxpayers in the dark.

“On the information we have seen so far, the Nexus proposals are based on incorrect data and assumptions, and present elected members and taxpayers with a misleading expectation of what a QCS can achieve.

“Elected members are being asked to approve a multimillion-pound experiment that would be a disaster for the bus network in Tyne and Wear, leading to higher fares and worse services for many communities.”

Nexus’s chief executive Bernard Garner denied the consulation was a sham.

“We first invited bus companies to meet with us last December, and for 11 months since have been working with them towards development of a partnership.

“We have not published details of a Quality Contracts Scheme, including the value for money it might represent, because we are still developing draft proposals which we have asked bus companies to help us with.

“We have been clear from the start, however, that any scheme we propose must be affordable and cost no more than the current £62million taxpayers put into local bus services, while looking to make better use of the £20million a year that private bus companies take out of the North East in profit.”

The consultation ends today, with Nexus to make recommendations to the ITA later this year.

Twitter: @davidallison88