The North East's bus services are being hit by a congestion crisis, transport bosses have warned.
Stagecoach North East has called for urgent action from Tyne and Wear's transport authority and local councils as parliament prepares to debate the state of the region's transport network.
The company wants more co-ordinated policies to help protect the local bus network in the future.
Stagecoach North East managing director Steve Walker, speaking before Wednesday’s Westminster debate, said: “Bus operators are investing millions of pounds to improve services through smart ticketing, better information and greener, and more accessible, services.
“But the reality is that, despite some recent investment in bus priority in Newcastle and Sunderland, these bus improvements are being undermined by a failure to tackle the congestion crisis which is affecting the North East and other parts of the country.
“The transport authority and local councils have the tools right now to solve what is the number one issue holding back the region’s bus network and putting passengers off using buses.
"Yet some politicians are avoiding facing up to these challenges by suggesting bus franchising is the solution. It will do nothing to stop the jams on our roads.
"Instead, we need practical action and partnership working. Transport authorities can invest in high impact bus priority measures, as well as other pro-public transport policies, to help attract more people on to buses, boost the local economy and improve air quality.”
Statistics by campaign group Greener Journeys show that average traffic speeds have fallen to below 10mph in Britain’s busiest towns and cities, significantly impacting bus travel, with journey times currently increasing by 10% per decade.
Over the past five years, Stagecoach North East has invested in improvements, including introducing more than 240 new vehicles, worth £37million, for local communities.
The company has also introduced smart, multi-operator ticketing as well as a new website and smartphone app which provide real-time journey updates.
Most recently, Stagecoach North East launched mobile ticketing and has committed to delivering contactless payments in Tyne and Wear by the end of the year.
Recent research by the Campaign for Better Transport shows that between 2014 and 2016, just under £40million of public sector investment was cut from local bus services in the North East.
For more information about Stagecoach North East, visit www.stagecoachbus.com