Shadow transport secretary pays tribute to efforts to re-regulate buses in Tyne & Wear and West Yorkshire. ‘I wish them luck,’ she tells conference

 

 

Plans to use Quality Contracts to re-regulate buses in Tyne & Wear and West Yorkshire have been boosted by unequivocal support from shadow transport secretary Mary Creagh last week.

In her speech to the Labour Party conference in Manchester, Creagh said: “Labour will support any city that wants London-style buses … I want to pay tribute to the combined authorities in the North East and West Yorkshire, who have spent the past four years trying to achieve better buses through a Quality Contract. I wish them luck, and in government they will have my full support.”

Quality Contracts would provide the authorities with complete control over bus networks, which would be franchised out, a move vigorously opposed by all of the incumbent bus operators in both regions.

The chair of West Yorkshire Combined Authority’s transport committee last week welcomed Creagh’s support.

James Lewis, chair of West Yorkshire Combined Authority’s transport committee, said that giving his region London-style powers to organise bus services would make “a huge difference”.

“The framework in which West Yorkshire’s buses are run needs to change,” he said, claiming that the alternative partnership offer put forward by the region’s bus operators “still falls short of our requirements and ambitions and still sees passengers penalised for using more than one company’s services”.

Lewis said: “This is not about turning the clock back decades but about bringing Yorkshire’s towns and cities into line with how bus services are organised, and bus companies operate successfully, in major modern cities across Europe and giving passengers the value-for-money services they deserve.”

The North East Combined Authority will meet on October 21 to decide on the way forward for its bus strategy, including an evaluation of competing partnership and Quality Contracts plans.

Andrew Tyldsley, head of commercial at bus operator Go North East, said: “There was nothing new in Mary Creagh’s speech … We remain convinced that partnership offers the best way forward, as has been proven in so many other parts of the country. We continue to engage with Nexus and the North East Combined Authority to discuss how partnership could be implemented across Tyne & Wear, with immediate benefits.”

 

North East operators make their case

Bus operators met with leaders of the North East Combined Authority this week to outline partnership proposals that they claim would deliver key improvements for passengers in the region, as well as saving taxpayers millions of pounds.

At the same time they revealed detailed analysis by independent economic consultants Oxera of the plans put forward by the combined authority’s transport executive Nexus. It shows that the Quality Contracts proposal to re-regulate buses is the most expensive option under consideration by the authority.

The latest partnership proposals from the region’s biggest bus operators – Go North East, Stagecoach and Arriva – include multi-operator smartcard ticketing and better value fares, extra investment in new buses, better information, a customer charter, a £2m a year saving for taxpayers and a stronger voice for local communities in their bus network.

Kevin Carr, chair of the North East Bus Operators’ Association, 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.”

 

This article appears inside the latest issue of Passenger Transport.

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