Nexus Managing Director Tobyn Hughes today (3 November) responded to publication of the QCS Board's opinion on Nexus proposals for better buses in Tyne and Wear.
Mr Hughes, said: “The QCS Board has recognised that our proposal offers local people a ‘transport system unrivalled in Great Britain outside London’, and gives Nexus ‘significant credit for compiling a proposed scheme that genuinely aims to, and has the potential to, improve the lives of Tyne and Wear citizens’.
“In light of that, we are extremely disappointed that the Board’s opinion is negative regarding the proposal, and there are aspects of it that we simply do not agree with. Of particular concern is that the Board took a highly pessimistic and surprising view of financial risks, suggesting that Nexus must budget for costs to be up to 40% higher than we know them to be, while at the same time suggesting the bus companies should be compensated out of public funds for missing out on future profits from the very same network of routes.
“The Board was not convinced by aspects of the economic modelling of the benefits of the proposal, and was concerned by changes to the presentation of economic benefits after consultation. Nexus will look at whether these issues can be rectified.
“The QCS Board notes that the alternative partnership offer would not exist in its current form if Nexus had not pursued this process, and that the bus operators ‘put forward as little as possible until the very last minute’. Further, it has ‘significant sympathy with the view of Nexus that some of the benefits of the partnership may not have materialised’. Despite this, the Board seems willing to accept the partnership offer at face value, which is at odds with the risk-averse approach it applies when considering Nexus’ proposal. The Board also fails to recognise that even if the partnership was delivered in full, many socially important bus services and reduced fare concessions would still be lost.
“The Combined Authority’s Leadership Board will consider the opinion of the QCS Board at its next meeting. It will be up to the Leadership Board to decide whether to ask Nexus to refresh the technical analysis and submit a revised proposal, or whether to pursue other options.
“It is now highly unlikely that the Combined Authority can reform local bus services in 2017 as planned. As well as introducing a high quality integrated public transport system, we set out to stop bus usage declining, and maintain vital local services at a time of national financial austerity. The QCS Board’s opinion will make those things all the more difficult to achieve."