North east operators make partnership case
North East Bus Operators Association (NEBOA) recently met with leaders of the North East Combined Authority (NECA) to outline partnership proposals they believe would deliver key improvements for passengers in the region and save taxpayers millions of pounds. Analysis of the Nexus plans conducted by independent economic consultants, Oxera, shows the Quality Contract Scheme (QCS) originally put forward by the region’s old transport authority, Nexus, is the most expensive option under consideration by NECA. The authority is due to meet on 21 October to decide on the way forward for its bus strategy, including an evaluation of partnership proposals and contracting plans. NEBOA’s latest partnership proposals include: smartcard multi-operator ticketing and better value fares; commitments for investment in extra buses and new low carbon vehicles; better information, onboard facilities and a formal customer charter; financial savings of up to £2m per year for the region’s taxpayers and a better voice for customers and local communities in their bus network.
NEBOA stressed to council leaders that the partnership package was the most affordable policy option for taxpayers, offered lower fares and greater stability in the long term. They also said it would result in higher levels of bus use than under a contracts regime. Nexus’ plans are based on what NEBOA describes as a mistaken claim that bus operator profit margins in the north east are higher than in the London contracted bus market. The operators claim the ‘profit difference’, which Nexus relies on to make its proposals financially viable, does not exist. They say it is simply a difference in the paper based accounting of vehicle interest costs.