Cheaper bus fares likely in shake-up

NOT GOOD ENOUGH ... Bernard Garner of Nexus says bus services need to improve.
NOT GOOD ENOUGH ... Bernard Garner of Nexus says bus services need to improve.

CHEAPER bus fares could be on the way as part of major transport shake-up plans.

In future, one body could plan and run all bus services through contracts with private companies, meaning reduced fares, particularly for young passengers.

The move follows long-running complaints about the quality of bus services, particularly in the Hebburn area.

Under the plans, called a quality contracts scheme, bus companies would still exist as private companies, and would bid for work.

Tyne and Wear Integrated Transport Authority would plan and set fares for all public transport, including Metro and buses.

There would be a single, simple brand and fare structure across the whole area, meaning cheaper fares for some passengers, particularly those who change between bus and Metro or different companies on their journey.

Bernard Garner, director general of Nexus, said: “Local buses are a vital public service, and should be planned and delivered in the public interest by a publicly-accountable body, as we do with Metro.

“We believe we can get more people on to buses, reduce fares for some passengers, particularly young people, and provide a simple, comprehensive and easy-to-use public transport network to the whole community.

“Bus companies choose where they run and at what times of day. They do a good job where they choose to, mainly on busy corridors during the day, but that’s not the case after 7pm or on Sunday, and away from these main corridors services are much less frequent, if they operate at all. That’s not good enough.

“A water company wouldn’t be allowed to cut off a village just because it is at the top of the hill, and that shouldn’t be the case with buses either.

“The number of people using buses has fallen by 6.5 million journeys in the last two years.

“Unless we change the way buses are run, it will continue to fall. This is because there are gaps where buses go, missing links to employment sites and local services, too little integration, and fares higher than they could be.

“Only seven out of 10 people are satisfied with their bus service and that is falling.

“Local people find the mix of operators, services and ticket choices complicated, confusing and expensive for some journeys, putting many people off public transport.”