NORTH-EAST English councils were praised yesterday for taking the “keynote decision” to bring the area’s bus services back into public control.
The union Unite hailed the decision, which predicted it “could herald a revolution in the improvement of passenger services across the UK.”
The North East Combined Authority (NECA) is made up of representatives of local authorities in the region.
Over the next decade it will invest £272 million in public transport which Unite said would reduce fares, improve services, reduce congestion and withdraw subsidies to the private sector.
Unite national officer for passenger transport Bobby Morton said: “This could herald a revolution in the way bus services are managed and developed across the country for the benefit of passengers. For the first time, a council regulated network of buses could be established outside London since 1986.
“For too long a deregulated bus system has failed to deliver for passengers and bus workers.”
He said Wednesday’s decision would mean that the bus operators in their current unregulated state will not be able to cut routes and channel profits out of the region to their profit-hungry shareholders.
NECA will take control of local bus services through an executive, similar to Transport for London (TfL), which would plan routes and frequencies and set fares.
In Tyne and Wear, it would replace the current deregulated market in which bus companies outside London currently operate.
The plan will allow the NECA to reinvest part of the profit buses make in Tyne and Wear in improving services and supporting the local economy.
NECA is introducing a Quality Contracts Scheme which will lay out its proposals for public control of services.
Mr Morton added: “As a consultee on the QCS proposal, Unite has already been working hard to make sure that a QCS delivers overall improvements for passengers and we look forward to having further opportunities to sit down and negotiate improvements for our thousands of bus workers.”
The next hurdle, stipulated by the Transport Act 2000, is for the QCS to be referred to a board to see if the public interest criteria will be met.