WORK WITH US TO DELIVER EVEN BETTER SERVICES TO BRITAIN’S MOST SATISFIED PASSENGERS, SAY NORTH EAST BUS OPERATORS
Bus operators in Tyne and Wear have called on the region’s transport authority to work in partnership with them to build on the North-east’s highest levels of bus satisfaction in the UK.
At a special meeting of the Tyne and Wear Integrated Transport Authority (ITA), representatives from the bus operators’ association in the North-east (NEBOA) promised councillors a package of bus service improvements through a partnership proposal called ‘Better by Far’.
Along with improvements to fares and ticketing, bus companies have vowed to invest £32million, in just one year, in vehicles, depots and staff training if the ITA enters a Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) with operators.
Tyne and Wear already has one of the best bus networks in the country, with independent research by watchdog Passenger Focus showing 91% of passengers are satisfied or very satisfied with their buses.
Now bus operators are promising passengers a range of further benefits, including:
- Cheaper fares, including a new ticket delivering huge savings for 16 to 18-year-olds
- A simple ticketing system, giving value for money and customer choice.
- New bus-to-bus tickets to meet the needs of people who use more than one operator
- A customer charter and ‘no change pledge’ on services in first 12 months
- Guaranteed savings of £250,000 for local councils in the first year alone
- A better voice for local councillors and businesses in improving services
In contrast, transport executive Nexus has proposed a Quality Contract Scheme (QCS), which would take at least two years to implement, involve set-up costs alone of £2.5 million and pass financial risks to local taxpayers.
Kevin Carr, chair of NEBOA, the bus operators’ association, said that a partnership would produce immediate benefits from April 2013 and save passengers and taxpayers money.
He said: “A partnership approach is the only sensible and constructive way to deliver improvements for Tyne and Wear bus passengers. Bus operators are willing to invest and make changes for the good of passengers – it is time for others to stop talking down the region’s bus services and its hard-working bus staff, and recognise that they are delivering among the best customer service in the UK, ahead of levels achieved in London. We should be working together constructively to build on that proud record.
“We are offering savings for councils rather than passing financial risk to local authorities and local people. Under our proposed agreement, local councillors and businesses will also have a better voice in helping to deliver improvements in the region’s bus network. We have even promised passengers whose bus has a problem that they can transfer free to the next following bus regardless of operator.
“Instead of waiting years on just a promise, a partnership agreement can give our communities guaranteed benefits in a matter of months.”
The new ticketing system would include:
- Bus-to-bus multi operator tickets to suit those people who use the services of more than one company but don’t need to use Metro.
- Single-operator tickets to allow companies to offer best-value fares for more local journeys
- Continuation of the Network One multi-operator tickets for people using buses, Metro, local trains and the Shields ferry.
NEBOA’s partnership proposal and new initiatives will build on the strong bus services already in place in the region, including:
- Frequent services in the busiest parts of Tyne and Wear towns and cities from early morning until almost midnight
- Good connections to important destinations, including town and city centres, Metrocentre and the NewcastleGateshead Quayside
- Services connecting almost every part of Tyne and Wear to local shopping, hospitals and medical centres, and recreation facilities.
- Good services to industrial estates and business parks including Doxford International, Team Valley, Cobalt, Quorum, Great Park and Newcastle Business Park.
- Special services to St James’ Park and the Stadium of Light for home matches and concerts.
Last month NEBOA wrote to Nexus expressing concerns over the transport executive’s almost exclusive focus on pursuing a QCS at the expense of genuine joint working to develop an alternative Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA). In the letter, bus operators complained that Nexus and its officials have given “little assistance” in developing a partnership proposal, despite significant work by the operators.
In September, the Government’s independent cross-party Transport Select Committee report on Competition in the local bus market endorsed partnership working as the most realistic means of delivering service improvements at current public spending levels in most areas.
The Customer Charter included in NEBOA’s partnership proposal has been endorsed by passenger group Bus Users UK.