Letters, Monday, January 16, 2012

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Bus shake-up makes no sense

HOUGHTON and Sunderland South MP Bridget Phillipson has talked of the need for a “shake- up” of bus services to improve passenger satisfaction through increased competition.

 Yet, the question must be asked: “Will a move to the ‘quality contracts’ model proposed by Nexus really provide these improvements?”

 The answer, quite simply, is no. Those who talk of a return to a “regulated” bus service should understand the repercussions. Firstly, replacing commercial services with publicly-funded franchise operations leaves bus networks open to local government spending cuts.

 In addition, the initial reasoning behind the privatisation of the bus service some 25 years ago was to close the black hole into which public subsidy was being poured.

 At a time when austerity is hitting the UK hard, the ITA in Tyne and Wear spending in excess of £3million reviewing the present arrangements is hard to swallow.

 Questions also linger around how the “quality contracts” model would get to the heart of what passengers want and need from their local bus service.

 At Go North East, we work tirelessly to communicate with our customers via traditional face-to-face channels and social media. We have never been better placed to understand what the people of Wearside require from their bus networks.

 Private companies, including Go North East have made significant investments in bus services and facilities.  

 Whether the same level of investment would be possible under the “quality contracts” model is extremely doubtful.

 Ms Phillipson raised the important point of passenger satisfaction. In 2011, Go North East was audited by Passenger Focus who reported a 92 per cent satisfaction rate, one of the best in the country.

 Despite the state of the economy, we have defied reports of falling bus user numbers and increased the number of our commercial passengers year-on-year.

 The people of Wearside deserve a bus network which fully meets their needs, and Go North East is committed to continuing to deliver that.

 At a time when the public purse strings are ever tightening, spending taxpayer money trying to fix something which isn’t actually broken does not make a great deal of sense.

Martin Harris

Commercial director

Go North East.

Thanks to you

LAST Saturday my son Barry travelled from Washington to Heworth to train at Gateshead Stadium.

 It was not until his planned return journey that he discovered he had lost his bus pass. He was very upset as this is the pass which allows him to travel to college in Gateshead and it did not expire until the end of March.  

 At 8am on Monday my wife phoned the customer service line of Go-Ahead Northern. They phoned the bus depot in Washington to be told the pass had been handed in and could be collected from the depot.

 By 2pm Barry had his pass back.

 I would like to pass on my thanks to the person who handed in his pass, the bus driver who handed it into the depot, the depot staff and the customer service staf on the phone. You restored my faith in mankind that day. Thank you.

David Snowdon.

Use video link COUNCILLOR speaking in South Africa: Why, oh why, send this man on this trip?

 Just create a video link and he is there on screen for all to see and hear at a fraction of the cost.

 If he is determined to go, ask him and his councillor colleagues to chip in as well as wasting tax payers’ money and I’m sure they will cancel his trip.

A Green

Be accountable

WE all have to make savings in these austere times, but I wonder if we would do so if we had other people’s money to spend?  

 Not Sunderland City Council, it seems. I don’t like the way they spend mine.

 The Echo letter pages have been littered with examples of their inefficiency (Toll Bar junction) and petty bureaucracy gone mad (Hells Kitchen cafe). There are more examples and it’s about time there was a lot more transparency in the way “MY” council conceives its ideas and how its contracts department works.

 How and why did those handrails appear on Queen Alexandra Bridge a few years ago? Explanation please? Anyone travelling through the Hope at Tunstall will no doubt wonder how many reflective bollards were actually needed to provide safe passage. How much does just one of these things cost? Hundreds were purchased and used ... I can’t imagine the cost of installation.

 I’d like to see the Echo lead the way in investigating how such things come to pass with the aim of making every department within “OUR” council accountable for all its actions.

Ray Findlay

of jobs could be created in a green economy through renewable energy, but what is even more important is that instead of being controlled by distant corporations the economy is democratically owned by the population.

Above all we need an economy that respects future generations, but to achieve this means making political changes. From fighting government cuts to opposing the drive to war in Iran, we need to unite with others. Personal change as outlined by Allan is important, but not enough.

Incidentally, it’s funny how there is always enough money for the government to spend on war but never enough for the NHS or to support those who are weaker in society.

Emily Blyth,

Sunderland Green Party

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