NORTH EAST BUS OPERATORS MEET COMBINED AUTHORITY TO MAKE CASE FOR PARTNERSHIP
Bus operators met with leaders of the North East Combined Authority (NECA) today (1 October 2014) to outline partnership proposals that would deliver key improvements for passengers in the region as well as saving taxpayers millions of pounds.
Detailed analysis of the Nexus plans conducted by independent economic consultants Oxera shows that the QCS proposal is the most expensive option under consideration by NECA.
The Combined Authority brings together the seven councils which serve County Durham, Gateshead, Newcastle, North Tyneside, Northumberland, South Tyneside and Sunderland. The authority will meet on 21 October to decide on the way forward for its bus strategy, including an evaluation of partnership proposals and contracting plans.
During today’s meeting, representatives from the region’s biggest bus operators – Go North East, Stagecoach and Arriva – outlined the latest partnership proposals, which include:
· smartcard multi-operator ticketing and better value fares
· commitments for investment in extra buses and new low carbon vehicles
· better information, on-board facilities, and a formal customer charter
· financial savings of up to £2m per year for the region’s taxpayers
· a better voice for customers and local communities in their bus network
Bus operators stressed to council leaders that the partnership package was the most affordable policy option for taxpayers, offered lower fares and greater stability in the long-term, and would result in higher levels of bus use than under a contracts regime1.
Nexus’ plans are based on a mistaken claim that bus operator profit margins in the North East are higher than in the London contracted bus market. The reality is that the “profit difference”, which Nexus relies on to make its proposals financially viable, does not exist. It is simply a difference in the paper-based accounting of vehicle interest costs.
Kevin Carr, Chair of the North East Bus Operators’ Association (NEBOA), said: “We have put together a very strong partnership package that gives passengers what they want and at the same time meets the objective of councils in the North East to save money.
“In contrast, the bus contracts plan will substantially increase the cost to the combined authority of delivering public transport services in Tyne and Wear. It raises the prospect of substantial above-inflation fare rises for passengers and exposes local taxpayers to significant financial risks.
“The flaws in Nexus financial assumptions is deeply worrying. It means that money that it has promised council leaders in the North East is not there and the case for bus contracts is fatally flawed. In coming to their decision this month, council leaders must think carefully about the financial implications for each of the authorities, their constituents and bus passengers.”
Tyne and Wear has the highest overall bus passenger satisfaction of any of the six metropolitan regions in England, with a rating of 90%.