A keynote decision to take bus services in Tyne and Wear back under council control could herald a revolution in the improvement of passenger services across the UK, Unite, the country’s largest union, said today (Tuesday 21 October).
The North East Combined Authority (NECA), made up of representatives of local councils, agreed to introduce a Quality Contracts Scheme (QCS) which could give a £272 million economic boost to the region over the next decade in terms of reduced fares, better services, less road congestion – and a reduction and freezing of the subsidies that now go to the private bus companies.
Unite national officer for passenger transport Bobby Morton said: “This could herald a revolution in the way bus services are managed and developed across the country for the benefit of passengers. For the first time, a council regulated network of buses could be established outside London since 1986.
“Unite welcomes today’s decision by NECA as it will mean that the bus operators in their current unregulated state won’t be able to cut routes and channel profits out of the region to their profit hungry shareholders.
“For too long a deregulated bus system has failed to deliver for passengers and bus workers.”
The QCS would see the NECA take control of local bus services through an executive, such as Transport for London, which would plan routes and frequencies, and set fares. In Tyne and Wear, it would replace the current deregulated market, in which bus companies, outside London, currently operate.
The QCS, drawn up by the Passenger Transport Executive Nexus, would allow the NECA to reinvest part of the profit buses make in Tyne and Wear in improving services and supporting the local economy.
Bobby Morton added: “As a consultee on the QCS proposal, Unite has already been working hard to make sure that a QCS delivers overall improvements for passengers and we look forward to having further opportunities to sit down and negotiate improvements for our thousands of bus workers.”
The next hurdle, stipulated by the Transport Act 2000, is for the QCS to be referred to a QCS board to see if the public interest criteria will be met. This includes whether it will increase passenger numbers and benefits, meet local policy goals and be affordable to local councils.
For further information please contact Unite senior communications officer Shaun Noble on 07768 693940 and/or the Unite press office on 020 3371 2065.
Notes to editors:
- Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest trade union with over 1.4 million members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.