A TIMETABLE has been set to consider proposals for the complex process of nationalising bus services in Tyne and Wear.
The Quality Contract Scheme would be the first outside London, and would see Nexus take the control of bus routes and fares in South Tyneside, out of the hands of private companies.
But bus operators are bitterly opposing the plans, which they say would seriously threaten their business models as they are forced to bid for contracts.
A series of evidence hearings will be held before the QCS board in March and April, where Nexus and bus operators Arriva North East, Go North East and Stagecoach, will present their cases.
In a delay to the usual process, the board has said it needs more time to ensure proper scrutiny due to ‘exceptional circumstances’, these being that it would be the first scheme of its kind.
The board’s chairman Kevin Rooney has now written to the Secretary of State for Transport to confirm its intentions.
At a directions hearing held in Leeds last week, Nexus and the bus companies were told to submit an analysis of the economic issues by February, while the board intends to publish a final report by May 31.
The three evidence sessions will take place at a venue yet to be confirmed. Members of the Tyne and Wear Passenger Transport Users Group (TWPTUG) have also requested the opportunity to give evidence.
TWPTUG campaigns officer Dave Shaw said: “We have supported the proposal for a Quality Contract Scheme as the only way to safeguard and improve our bus services.
“As key stakeholders, we have made submissions at every stage of the consultation and supported the North East Combined Authority’s decision, in October, to agree this vital scheme.
“We asked for the opportunity to give evidence to the QCS board, which is the final stage of the process to bring this about. We will present further evidence of how we feel the proposed scheme meets all the tests in the legislation. We are clear that it is the best option for bus passengers and all public transport users across Tyne and Wear.”
Nexus and the three operators will be able to cross examine the evidence presented by both parties during the hearings.
The three operators are required to provide their written statements of evidence, supporting documents and matters of issue by the end of January, Nexus must provide theirs by February 20 and both should submit their skeleton arguments by March 3.