A DECISION on who runs South Tyneside bus services should be made before the end of the year, it has emerged.
A consultation process over plans for Metro operator Nexus to set fares and decide routes in Tyne and Wear – rather than the private bus companies – comes to an end next month.
It is likely to be a straight choice between Nexus’s ‘quality contract’ scheme and the alternative of a voluntary partnership between the bus companies.
A final choice is expected to be taken when members of Tyne and Wear Integrated Transport Authority (ITA) meet at Newcastle Civic Centre in Barras Bridge, on Thursday, November 28.
Before that date, members of South Tyneside’s ruling Labour group are set to receive presentations from representatives for the two rival bids.
From that meeting, a recommendation on which way to go forward will go before South Tyneside’s full council during early December.
Tyne and Wear has one of the busiest bus networks outside London, with the area’s 1.1m population making an average of 124.7 bus journeys each in 2011-12 – the third-highest rate in the country.
In July, members of the ITA agreed a 14-week consultation period over the plans.
The quality contracts proposal sets out ‘zonal’ adult fares that would apply right across Tyne and Wear.
The proposed adult fare for a single journey anywhere in Sunderland and most of South Tyneside will be £1.30, all child single fares will be 60p, and a new ticket for 16 to 18-year-olds will cost £7.50 a week.
Coun Gladys Hobson, the council’s lead member on the ITA, said the consultation process was coming to an end.
She added: “There have been delays over making a decision, but we’re hopeful of knowing which way we are going to go before the end of the year.”