London-style bus contracts ‘will target Sunderland’s poor’

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SOME of Sunderland’s poorest residents would suffer should the introduction of London-style contracts for bus services go ahead, it was warned today.

Stagecoach North East says plans to re-structure bus services in Tyne and Wear would have a massive impact on living standards on those already struggling on the poverty line.

Tyne and Wear Integrated Transport Authority’s (ITA) plans to bring all bus services under the control of Metro operator Nexus are currently subject to a consultation.

But instead of streamlining services, Stagecoach says that about half of its adult fare-paying passengers in Sunderland would face price hikes of up to 20 per cent.

Residents of Doxford Park, Downhill, Farringdon, Pallion, Pennywell, Thorney Close and Town End Farm would be among those hit the hardest, according to the company.

“This is damning evidence that the ITA’s bus contracting plans would have a hugely damaging impact on the living standards of some of the poorest and most vulnerable people in the North East,” managing director Phil Medlicott said.

“Families struggling to make ends meet on housing estates across Sunderland would be hit with massive fares hikes overnight. These are people who have the least scope to make savings elsewhere and it could make bus travel for them financially inaccessible.”

Stagecoach also claims that fares in Newcastle would stay the same, singling out the ward of ITA chairman and Newcastle City Councillor David Wood as an example.

“Communities south of The Tyne are already battling inequality of opportunity,” Mr Medlicott said.

“They will rightly be asking why they are paying more to hold fares down for electors in Coun Wood’s own back yard.”

Coun Wood said he was offended that the suggestion that people living in his impoverished Walkerville ward would be better off, as, he says, quality contracts would level out fares, making the system fairer.

“I don’t know where they have got their figures from,” he told the Echo. “It’s a disgraceful personal attack and I will take it up with them.

“I represent a ward which is probably one of the most deprived wards in the country – Walkerville.

“Year on year Stagecoach have been putting up their own fares by three per cent.

“It’s a perfect example as to why we would have quality contracts. These are just scaremongering tactics.

“The proposals say that over 80 per cent of fares will stay the same, so I would certainly dispute their figures.”