Geordie Lad continues his look at contractual developments. Omnibuses welcomes contributions
It should come as no surprise to industry watchers that Go North East has mounted a robust campaign (i Say Yes Now) to counter the proposal from Nexus PTE and the Tyne & Wear ITA to seek to introduce a quality contract scheme for the county. The late Peter Huntley had gone on the offensive as soon as the proposal became public, last November. He didn’t pull his punches. He referred to the scheme as a “cynical plan to grab power”. He wondered whether such central planning was Britain of 2011… or North Korea of 1971.
“They insult users by telling them that they are too stupid to understand brands & cheap ticket offers and tell them they need a remote central planning authority to tell them what bus services they can have”—Peter Huntley, November 2011Details of the contract scheme remain sketchy. Although nothing has been confirmed, industry insiders believe that the scheme will consist of just six contracts for groups of routes. Presuming that European procurement rules apply, the way could be open for any group to bid for a slice of the action. Little wonder, then, that the three main operators are concerned for their businesses, some of the very businesses sold off by Nexus itself.
While Nexus talks vaguely of ‘network benefits’, there is considerable concern about the fate of ‘cross boundary’ services running into Tyne & Wear from County Durham and Northumberland. Could Nexus take control of services running into Tyne & Wear from as far afield as Carlisle, Berwick upon Tweed and Middlesbrough? Sixty per cent of Northumberland’s bus services run into Tyne & Wear. If the ‘incumbent’ operator fails to win the Nexus contract for these, might he find that depots providing local routes in such places as Blyth, Ashington and Hexham are no longer viable? Could the Nexus QC scheme have serious implications for public transport funding in Northumberland and Durham, already hugely burdened with the cost of rural transport?
Go North East is already a ‘partnership’ player. There’s a very successful partnership in East Gateshead that’s seen improved services, increased usage and infrastructure improvements—a definite ‘win-win’ all round. If they wish to defeat the Nexus plan, the other bus operators might have to demonstrate their willingness to play ball, too. Watch this space.
Geordie Lad–Omnibuses correspondent doon the Bigg Market
i Say Yes Now from Go North East