Nexus sets out £4.5m rescue package to respond to bus cuts in Newcastle and North Tyneside

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22 February 2022

Nexus today set out a £4.5m rescue package to respond to huge cuts being made by commercial bus companies in Newcastle and North Tyneside as their covid-relief funding ends.

The cuts to routes and services being made by Arriva, Go North East and Stagecoach in March 2022 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 £4.5m package to replace commercial services which would otherwise be lost in Newcastle and North Tyneside, or re-cast publicly-funded routes it already provides to mitigate the worst effects of cuts set to take effect from Sunday, 27 March.  

But it has warned that the scale of the cuts means that, despite an increase in funding from local authorities in Tyne and Wear, it is unable to replace every route under threat.

Bus companies are expected to make further changes in other parts of North East England, including Sunderland, Gateshead and South Tyneside, later in the spring.  Nexus has pledged a further rescue package if there are significant cuts to routes elsewhere in Tyne and Wear. 

Huw Lewis, Customer Services Director for Nexus, said: “The cuts being made by commercial companies as covid-relief funding ends represents the biggest single change to local bus services for 35 years.

“We have put together a £4.5m rescue package for Newcastle and North 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.   

“We are also linking the new publicly-funded services we are creating and taking on with the high-frequency bus routes commercial companies continue to operate or Metro.  As well as recasting our own pattern of services we have worked in partnership with the bus companies who have also revised their changes in places to better maintain local connections.

“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 seek to keep local people connected.  We’re publishing our package so people have a chance to give feedback as we shape these new services for the future.”

Councillor Carl Johnson, Deputy Mayor at North Tyneside Council and Chair of the North East Joint Transport Committee Tyne and Wear subcommittee, said: “Buses play a vital role in communities across the North East, they help residents reach their jobs, elderly people connect with family and younger people socialise and reach educational services. 

“I know how essential these services are to communities in my own ward and across North Tyneside and that is why we, along with other Local Authorities across Tyne and Wear, have stepped up to provide extra funding to Nexus so they can pull this rescue package together.  

“However, even this cash injection will not be enough to replace all routes like-for-like, meaning people may have to walk further to find a bus, there will be less direct links to city centres and key employment sites and less frequent services across many routes. 

“The Government must recognise this and continue to provide financial support to bus companies until passenger numbers are closer to pre-pandemic levels. Across the North East we have seen a 75% of passengers return to services, underlining just how critical these buses are to our communities.”

Commercial bus companies operate 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.

The three commercial bus companies – Arriva, Go North East and Stagecoach – each recently informed Nexus of plans to reduce their services in the Newcastle and North Tyneside areas to levels they consider financially sustainable in the wake of the pandemic.  

The companies will see the Government’s Bus Recovery Grant withdrawn at the end of March 2022, while passenger numbers are yet to recover from the pandemic, and currently stand at around 75% of pre-covid levels.

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.

Commercial bus companies have agreed to make their changes in Newcastle and North Tyneside on Sunday 27 March, the same date that new Nexus contracts will take effect.  This means changes to bus routes across the area, and in neighbouring Northumberland, will all happen at the same time.

Nexus and bus companies are working on information campaigns to make sure local people can find out what is changing, including Nexus replacing thousands of bus stop timetables.

Further details can be found on Newcastle and North Tyneside Consultation information page on the Nexus website.

 

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