A decision is due to be made over the future shape of bus services in Tyne and Wear by the end of the year.
The Integrated Transport Authority (ITA) is seeking to adopt a new model which will increase the number of people using local buses and provides a better service which delivers greater value for money and cheaper fares for younger people.
Nexus has been charged with developing these proposals as part of the Bus Strategy Delivery Project, in consultation with bus companies, trades unions and local authorities.
An update report on the two models being considered – a Quality Contracts Scheme and an Operator Partnership - will be reviewed at the next meeting of the ITA Committee, on Thursday 27 September at Newcastle civic centre.
Documents can be viewed here, including the update report, the executive summary of a working draft for a Quality Contracts Scheme, and a set of ‘Frequently Asked Questions on the project.
Cllr David Wood, chair of the Integrated Transport Authority, said: [DRFAT] “Almost everyone agrees change is needed in the way bus services are planned and run, no recommendation has yet been made and no decision taken in respect of either option.
“We are exploring the information in an even-handed way and will make a decision which reflects the best interests of the travelling public as we seek to improve bus services throughout Tyne and Wear.”
Bernard Garner, Director General of Nexus, said: “We have drawn up a working draft Quality Contracts Scheme which we believe offers an affordable route to making local bus services better, and which we are continuing to consult on the details of with bus companies, unions and neighbouring authorities.
“At the same time we are continuing constructive talks with bus operators over a partnership agreement which we also hope will offer real benefits so we can then compare the two approaches.”
People in Tyne and Wear make 141 million bus journeys a year on 339 different bus routes – the highest number of trips per head of population in the UK outside London. But the current model is confusing for the passenger, represents bad value for the taxpayer and is unsustainable.
Business leaders, politicians and local people are among those who have called for change and there is a widespread acceptance that the current system needs to be improved.
In November 2011, the ITA instructed Nexus to prepare a draft proposal for a quality contract scheme and simultaneously explore with bus operators and district councils scope for developing quality bus partnerships as a possible alternative.
A working draft quality contract scheme was completed by Nexus in July 2012 and sent to local bus operators, trades unions and neighbouring local authorities on 1 August for consultation and the deadline for consultation was extended to 24 October to allow further time for it to be reviewed.
Following detailed work by all parties, a partnership proposal is expected to be available by 30 October 2012.
Nexus will be in a position to carry out a comparison between the two models during November, allowing the Director General to recommend a preferred approach to the ITA before the end of the year.