Bus fares rise ‘is justified’

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HIGHER bus fares would be “justified” to improve services across South Tyneside, a borough councillor has claimed.

Local councils in Tyne and Wear are considering introducing a Quality Contracts Scheme, to gain more control over bus routes and services.

Initial research has suggested that some fares could rise by as much 20 per cent as part of the plans.

But Coun Eddie McAtominey, pictured, who has repeatedly expressed dissatisfaction with bus services in Hebburn, said the needs of the majority should take “precedence” over a minority of passengers who could be forced to pay more.

He said: “These arrangements are not set in stone as yet and it could be a year or two before these contracts are introduced, following consultation.

“While I’m sure some people would not be terribly pleased to pay more, I think the majority of passengers would benefit from the changes.”

Tobyn Hughes, Nexus director of customer services, said: “Our early work on prices suggests that four out of five fare-paying adult passengers would pay roughly the same as now or less.

“One in five might see a modest price increase in a move to a set of fares that offers far better flexibility than today.”

Coun McAtominey believes most South Tyneside councillors would back moves for local authorities to take more control of bus services.

“This is something I fully support, because passengers in my town of Hebburn and across the rest of the borough are not getting a fare deal on services,” he added.

Coun McAtominey has long claimed that residents in several areas of Hebburn are “isolated” because of inadequate commercial bus services.

Nexus, on behalf of the Tyne and Wear Integrated Transport Authority and the regio’s five local councils, is exploring the respective benefits of a new Voluntary Partnership Agreement with bus companies, and a Quality Contracts Scheme, in which all services would be offered under franchise by a single public body.

It says a Quality Contract Scheme would provide better and more affordable bus routes, particularly for young people aged 16 to 18.

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