Bus chiefs’ bid to avoid council taking control

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BUS chiefs have vowed not to axe any routes for 12 months if councils back down from takeover threats.

Firms such as Stagecoach and Go North East have come together to work on voluntary plans to change the way buses work in the North East amid concerns council leaders want to take control.

Council transport bosses are considering compulsory changes, known as Quality Contracts, which would effectively see councillors say “enough is enough” to allegedly under-performing bus companies and start setting all fares, routes and timetables themselves.

However, now the region’s biggest firms have explained how they can bring about voluntary changes which would not see the taxpayer exposed to risky failed routes.

The proposals include cheaper fares for young people, a new range of one-bus tickets and savings for local councils of £250,000 in the first year alone of a bus partnership agreement.

The partnership’s offer includes a “no-change amnesty”, under which bus operators are committed to no changes to services in the first 12 months of the partnership.

Similar to the council proposals being undertaken by transport group Nexus, the bus companies maintain the tickets should work on a zone model.

This model is used by the Tyne and Wear Metro.

Kevin Carr, chairman of North East Bus Operator’s Association, said the move could benefit passengers.

He said: “Our plan contains clear benefits for existing passengers and a range of new fares that should help us grow patronage on the region’s buses.

“A three-tier approach to ticketing provides simplicity, value for money and customer choice.

“Bus-to-bus multi-operator tickets will suit those people who use the services of more than one company, but don’t need to use the Metro. A new ticket range will also mean huge savings for 16 to 18-year-olds.

“This partnership means cheaper fares for thousands of people next spring, when Nexus have already admitted that fares will rise if a quality contract is introduced.”

Mr Carr said quick action over the proposals could save taxpayers’ money.

He added: “Implementing a quality contract could take years and involve set-up costs of £2.5million, but if the transport authority decides to progress 
the partnership proposals, all of this could be in place as early as next April and save taxpayers’ money.”

If the voluntary deal is rejected, council transport chiefs would use the millions of pounds handed to firms in public subsidies to run the service themselves, handing out fixed-price contract to firms funded through fare boxes.

However, councils would be liable to cover the cost should passenger numbers decline.

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