Commuters in the region are facing the prospect of major cuts to public transport routes as the government prepares to withdraw the funding which has propped the sector up since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.
In a bid to head this off, transport bosses are poised to inject a further £4.125 million into services - taking the total bill for 2022/23 to more than £65 million.
In a joint statement, the leaders of the five Tyne and Wear local authorities said they had been left with “no choice but to boost local transport funding”.
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A message to households added: “We anticipate that the region’s private bus operators will shortly announce major cuts to many local bus routes.
“This is a direct product of the government’s decision to withdraw its Covid-19 financial support for buses at the end of March, despite the ongoing effects of the pandemic on public transport use being obvious for all to see.
“As a result some communities face having their public transport links severely cut back, or removed altogether.
“As Council Leaders we cannot allow this to happen - people in our communities need bus services to access jobs, schools and colleges, and essential services like healthcare.”
The “unprecedented” increase to the Tyne and Wear public transport levy to £65.225 million was proposed as part of a package of measures to combat the financial impact of a massive drop in passenger numbers blamed on Covid-19.
The plans, which are due to be voted on by the North East Joint Transport Committee later this year, are also expected to see the cash paid out to private bus operators slashed, potentially prompting service cuts.
The leaders’ statement added: “The upcoming decimation of the bus network in Tyne and Wear is wholly within the government’s power to resolve.
“We call once more on the government to reverse its decision to end Covid-19 funding for buses and light rail, before the effects of the pandemic have passed.”