Sunderland deserves bus services as good as London’s, says Houghton MP

Houghton MP Bridget Phillipson is campaigning for local people to be given more say over bus services.
Houghton MP Bridget Phillipson is campaigning for local people to be given more say over bus services.
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“WE want better buses” – that’s the cry from a Sunderland MP as she launches a campaign to improve transport in her constituency.

Bridget Phillipson, who serves Houghton and Sunderland South, says that findings from a Big Bus Survey carried out last year show that 1,000 people want better bus services.

In response, Nexus, which provides buses across Sunderland, has announced plans to create a Quality Contract scheme, similar to one which runs in London.

But other transport firms however, have come out in opposition to the proposals, with Go North East saying it would prefer a voluntary code of conduct.

Ms Phillipson said: “Local people are clearly frustrated with the level and quality of bus service in our area.

“If an excellent transport service is good enough for cities such as London – it’s good enough for us.

“Nexus is taking the steps needed to support local people and has proposed a change which I expect will deliver the level of service people in Wearside deserve.”

The MP added: “The loss of a bus route can mean the loss of the opportunity to stay on in education or access employment, and can leave the elderly and vulnerable isolated.

“That’s why I’m campaigning to support Nexus and its proposals to improve our local bus service and call on local residents to help me make that change possible.”

A spokesman for Nexus said: “Nexus has been asked by the Integrated Transport Authority (ITA) to look at new models for the delivery of bus services, to give local people a better public service and better value for money.

“We are looking at the relative merits of a Quality Contracts Scheme, based on local franchising of bus services, or new Voluntary Partnership Agreements with operators, to see if they would bring improvements for passengers.

“This project has the support of the five local councils in Tyne and Wear, and the engagement we have done with local business and community leaders shows a strong desire for change.

“We will report back to the ITA in the summer, when any proposal will have to demonstrate how services will improve without additional public money going into bus services.”

Go North East however, say that their passengers are pleased with what they are already receiving.

A spokesman said: “I welcome the work Bridget Phillipson is putting into getting the voice of bus passengers heard, and firmly believe that when many more of them have spoken, a very different picture will emerge.

“We have satisfaction ratings of 92 per cent amongst customers from the Government’s own independent survey of over 1,000 users last year and changes to our services over the last five years reversed the continuation of decline in bus use and led a return to growth in passengers.

“Many of those passengers are already registering their support for our campaign for a solution that involves less risk to public expenditure at a time when it is stretched to the limit.

“In January this year, out of over 1,000 bus users, fewer than a quarter even knew about Nexus’ plans.

“It is premature to suggest that their plans have widespread support.”

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