Nexus sets out £4.3m rescue package to respond to bus cuts in Sunderland, Gateshead and South Tyneside

Passengers on a bus
13 June 2022

Nexus today set out a £4.3m rescue package to respond to cuts being made by commercial bus company Go North East to services it operates across Sunderland, Gateshead and South Tyneside.

The cuts to routes and services being made by Go North East in response to lower passenger numbers since the pandemic would leave some communities without bus services and cut links to shops and hospitals, business parks, schools and colleges.

Nexus has, in response, drawn up a £4.3m package to replace services which would otherwise be lost, or re-cast publicly-funded routes it already provides to mitigate the worst effects of cuts set to take effect from Sunday, 24 July.  Have your say here.

It is the second time this year Nexus has been forced to step in, using funds provided by local councils in Tyne and Wear, following a similar rescue package it put in place due to cuts by commercial bus companies in Newcastle and North Tyneside in March.

Nexus has sought feedback from local people on its proposals and has pledged to take further measures to protect and adapt bus services as a result of this consultation, further increasing the cost of its final package. 

Martin Gannon, leader of Gateshead Council and chair of the North East Joint Transport Committee, said:  “Our communities will understandably be concerned about the impact of Go North East’s service cuts which are due to come into play next month. 

“The bus network is something local people rely on every day and it is vital that services are available for them when they need them. Unfortunately bus ridership is still way below pre-pandemic levels and with government Covid-19 funding support due to end in October, the operators are making cuts in response. 

“It is great news that Nexus is able to step in and make sure that communities stay connected.  We knew this was coming when we set last year’s transport budget at the North East Joint Transport Committee, and so we took the very difficult decision to increase council contributions to make sure that Nexus had a fighting fund it could use to safeguard as many services as possible.

“I fear that there may be more difficult choices ahead for bus operators and local authorities, but we remain committed to making sure that people who rely on the bus can keep vital local connections.”

Huw Lewis, Customer Services Director for Nexus, said: “The cuts Go North East are planning to make in July are just the latest we have seen from commercial bus companies responding to lower passenger numbers in the wake of the pandemic. 

“We have put together a £4.3m rescue package for Sunderland, Gateshead and South Tyneside which seeks to make sure as many people as possible still have a local bus they can catch to get to shops, the GP surgery and other essential services.  The scale of the changes means we are not able to provide a like-for-like replacement to every route being cut, but we can do a lot to keep local people connected.  

“The rescue package we have published is a first step as we are consulting on further measures we could take to protect and recast local services to best meet local needs.”

The cuts by Go North East also effect services in County Durham, and Nexus is putting together joint interventions with Durham County Council where routes under threat cross the boundary of Tyne and Wear.

Commercial bus companies have traditionally operated 90% of bus routes in Tyne and Wear and decide where and how often these run.   Nexus has powers to provide additional services, using funding from local authorities, where there are gaps in these commercial services which would otherwise leave people without access to public transport.

Bus companies have been able to access the Government’s Bus Recovery Grant to make up for a shortfall in passengers since the pandemic, but this additional funding runs out in October.

Nexus uses a common criteria to assess where it will step-in to provide a publicly-funded bus built on the following priorities, which reflect consultation it has carried out with local people: 

•    A bus or Metro service within 400 metres of homes.
•    Public transport at least hourly to essential shops, local services and local employment sites.
•    A local service to a hub (such as a town centre or interchange) from which people can catch frequent bus or Metro services to a wider range of destinations. 
•    Reducing the time it takes to reach major employment sites and hospitals as far as possible, including changes.

Go North East and Nexus have worked together on ways to lessen the impact of cuts since the bus company first announced its proposals. The changes will take effect on Sunday 24 July allowing Nexus time to contract new services where there are cuts to maintain local links without interruption.
Nexus is also planning information campaigns to make sure local people can find out what is changing, including replacing thousands of bus stop timetables, printing leaflets and holding community events next month.

We want to get feedback from local people on our initial rescue package, as well as suggestions for further measures we could take to maintain the services you value most. Send your feedback to [email protected]

© 2022 Nexus Tyne and Wear - Public Transport and Local Information.