NEXUS has “declared war” on bus companies according to a Sunderland Tory spokesman over its proposals to take control of services on Wearside.
Tyne and Wear’s Integrated Transport Authority (ITA), made up of all five of the county’s local authorities, is due to meet this Friday to vote on Nexus’s proposals for a Quality Contracts Scheme.
The scheme would see operators compete for contracts with Nexus and would mean a shift in control from the bus companies, which are presently able to pick routes and set timetables according to profitability.
ITA member and Sunderland councillor Peter Wood will be voting against the scheme. He claims it will only increase bureaucracy instead of improving services for passengers.
“The Nexus recommendation that quality contracts represent the best approach to the provision of bus services in Tyne and Wear is, at best, premature,” he said. “We need to give companies the opportunity to demonstrate the extent to which they could run the same network on a partnership basis. Going down the quality contract route represents a declaration of war by Nexus on bus companies.”
He claims Nexus believes that Stagecoach, in particular, is making too much profit in Tyne and Wear and that reducing these would finance better bus services across the board. “Back in the post-war period, this was really Labour’s argument in favour of nationalisation,” he said. “That didn’t work either.”
Coun Wood is in favour of the second option being considered by the ITA, a partnership between Nexus and the bus companies, which he says could be up and running within months.
The Quality Contracts Scheme, would, he claims, take years to introduce, particularly if operators take legal action, which they have said they will.
Coun Wood’s preferred option would also protect council tax payers from costly mistakes as, with quality contracts, any losses would be borne by local councils.
“Apart from the cost of repainting buses, quality contracts would also mean an increase in bureaucracy – with more people planning and monitoring bus services.
“Quality contracts would mean the final decisions about Sunderland’s bus services being taken in Newcastle. If quality partnerships can deliver the bus network Nexus proposes under quality contracts that would be the better route.”
A Nexus spokesman said: “We would look forward to working with bus companies under either of the proposals that the ITA are discussing.”