A bus company has been attacked by a Labour MP for “salami slicing” services after it emerges 80 journeys a day have disappeared under a rerouting programme.
Houghton and Sunderland South MP Bridget Phillipson has criticised Go North East for cuts to bus services across Tyne and Wear, citing a study by Passenger Transport Executive Nexus.
Sunderland is shouldering most of the burden, the MP says, with changes to routes and timetables to the 35, 35A, 35B and 35C services.
The MP says her office has fielded calls from people worried about links to schools and health facilities.
She adds it is difficult to compare the new route map and timetable information with previous versions and people have concerns that the re-routing of the 35 services will significantly disrupt journeys to nearby GP practices in Silksworth, Herrington and Sunderland Royal Hospital.
Children may also have to take longer journeys to schools such as the Venerable Bede Academy because they will have to change buses.
Go North East said the changes will simplify services, but four variations have already been made to routes 35, 35A and 36 since November.
The MP said:
“The volume of service changes implemented by Go North East this week is likely to cause a great deal of confusion and inconvenience to many people.
“I have received many emails and phone calls from worried constituents expressing their concerns over changes to the route 35 service.
“Go North East say this is about simplifying things, but there have been 15 variations in this route since 2011 and I cannot see how this constant chopping and changing is making things simpler. The new route maps and timetables are also presented differently from older versions.
“People are understandably angry about the fact that four services have been reduced to three. Across the region estimates show that as many as 80 routes a day will be cut.
“Go North East should explain why these changes are being implemented and how they are in the best interest of passengers.
“This salami slicing of services shows exactly why we must introduce a London-style bus network with stable routes, oyster style ticketing and fines for operators when they fail to live up to their promises.”
Managing director of Go North East Kevin Carr, said the changes were introduced after a consultation with Nexus and customers.
He said many of the services now travelled closer to shops.
He said: “We are the number one bus operator in Sunderland and it’s really important that we adapt our services to meet customers’ needs.”
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 30 Jan 2015
Control over bus services looks set to be placed in the hands of councils in the biggest shake-up of public transport for a generation.
Members of the North East Combined Authority have voted unanimously for the Quality Contract Scheme (QCS) for the Tyne and Wear area.
The proposals – if passed by an independent review board – will signal a new era of London-style bus services where passengers carry a pass similar to the capital’s Oyster card and councils decide on fares and when/how often services run.
Tyne and Wear would also stand alone outside London operating a QCS system in the biggest change since buses were de-regulated in the 1980s.
North East bus companies who bitterly opposed the plans – which will see them compete for contracts say they will continue to fight.
Councillor Nick Forbes, regional transport lead for NECA, said:
“We realise that the bus companies will find this decision disappointing. But leaders took their decision balancing the wider public interest and concluded that the voluntary arrangements proposed by the bus companies could simply not deliver our ambitions for better bus services.”
The proposals, put together by Nexus, came about after bus fares in the region rose by around 3% above RPI inflation each year since 1995.
> Not to mention all the routes the private companies, especially Stagecoach, axed. Paying more for less – it’s the British way.
Vicki Gilbert, chairwoman of Tyne and Wear Public Transport Users Group, welcomed the decision and said:
“Only a QCS will introduce any sort of democratic control over bus services, and allow decisions about services and fares to be made in the interests of all of the public as opposed to the interests of the bus operators.
“Only a QCS will place a limit on the near monopoly profits enjoyed by the bus operators. Only by making the bus operators compete for contracts will the cost of running buses come down to a level that we can afford.”
Kevin Carr, Chair of the North East Bus Operators’ Association (NEBOA), said:
“We are very disappointed, but not surprised, at the decision to press on with the contract scheme.
“Nexus has convinced the leaders to take a huge gamble, needing an £80m contingency fund on top of £51m in guaranteed funding every year. It’s not the best way of securing vital bus services for communities in Tyne and Wear.
“The latest Nexus proposals don’t offer a single extra bus or any expansion of the bus network. Bus passengers in Tyne and Wear deserve better than this scheme, which will lead to higher fares, worse bus services and higher council tax bills.”
Mr Carr added NEBOA would continue to oppose the plans at the review stage.
“Today’s decision is not final. We expect a far more rigorous examination of the bus contracts proposals by the independent review board.
“The board has a duty to determine whether these plans meet key legal, economic and value for money tests.
“We do not believe these tests have been met and we will make robust arguments to the review board to demonstrate this. Unless all of the tests have been met, the bus contracts scheme as it stands cannot be implemented.”
Bridget Phillipson, MP for Houghton and Sunderland South, however, said the bus companies must accept the decision.
She said: “The bus operators should now respect this democratic decision and work to support passengers.”
Source – Newcastle Journal, 22 Oct 2014