Taxpayers will be put at risk if councils run buses, an transport firm has warned.
Go North East is among several firms in the region desperate to prevent the five Tyne and Wear councils using the law to seize their routes.
Council group Nexus says the firms have failed the region’s passengers, and warn they cannot continue to hand over millions of pounds in bus subsidies.
As the deadline closes and councils prepare to have their final say, Go North East has warned the plans risk ruining a good service, meaning tax payers would have to cover the loss.
Managing director Kevin Carr said: “Independent surveys show that bus passengers in Tyne and Wear are the most satisfied of any UK Metropolitan area. Go North East has spent 26 years responding to what customers want - routes direct to city centres, fares that suit all needs, and branded modern buses.
“The Nexus scheme will freeze progress for up to 10 years, increase fares for bus passengers in some areas by over 20%, and expose local taxpayers to the risk of fare revenue not meeting the cost of the scheme. The partnership proposal offers the service improvements that passengers want, without unnecessary delay, and will give Nexus the benefit substantial cost savings. It’s a far superior option for the people of Tyne and Wear.”
Nexus is considering bringing in quality contract, which will mean only council-controlled buses are allowed to operate in the region. The London style changes would see firms bid for strict contracts covering routes, fares and timetables.
In its formal consultation response, Go North East said it had found multiple flaws in the scheme which would transfer the financial risks and costs of operating services to local taxpayers.
But last night Tobyn Hughes, deputy director general of Nexus, said: “We are in the middle of reading the detailed submission Go North East has made as we seek the best way to protect and improve local bus services.
“We shall be carefully considering and evaluating all consultation responses and the supporting data provided to substantiate those responses with our own independent experts. We will only proceed with a Quality Contract Scheme if after the most careful analysis we remain convinced that it makes sense to do so.
“It is understandable a company like Go North East will be opposed to a Quality Contract Scheme as it is clearly adverse to their commercial interests and it is important to understand their position fully when assessing the merits of the scheme. t is for that reason a scheme should only be introduced if it is clear it will be to the greater good of the public in the Tyne and Wear region to do so.
“We have always been clear we are open to partnership with existing companies instead of new contracts if that is the best way forward and we continue to engage actively with the bus companies to see whether a viable alternative can be developed.”
The Quality Contracts proposals have caused a furious row with bus companies in the North East.
Stagecoach chairman Sir Brian Souter has threatened to axe 500 North East bus services if council chiefs try to take control, accusing the councils of being “unreconstructed Stalinists” on the region’s transport authority as they prepare for London-style bus powers.
But MPs and other politicians in the region have backed the plans and say they will offer a better deal to passengers.