Opposition petition presented
Bus workers’ union GMB and Stagecoach have joined forces to present a petition to Tyne and Wear’s transport authority (Nexus) calling for bus contracting plans to be dropped. Over 7,000 people across the region have signed a petition opposing Nexus’s proposals. According to the area’s bus operators, the plans raise concerns over fare rises, council tax increases and threats to bus workers’ jobs and pensions. The delegation who delivered the petition to Nexus HQ in Newcastle included GMB Branch Secretary, Matthew Laws and Stagecoach North East MD, Phil Medlicott, along with concerned bus passengers. According to Stagecoach, private consultants have so far received around £300,000 of taxpayers’ money in fees for developing the Nexus contracts plans without any bus improvement being made. The transport authority has confirmed in a Freedom of Information response that the bill by April 2014 is expected to top £1m.
Phil Medlicott said, ‘Bus workers, from drivers to managers, are united in opposing the flawed plans for bus contracts. We have also listened to thousands of our customers raise concerns over the past few months. Together, they have a simple message for the transport authority: “we don’t want bus contracts or the fare increases and council tax rises that come with them.” It is time Nexus put people first instead of politics and listened to those who understand buses and use them.’
Bus operators in Tyne and Wear have proposed a different package of improvements to services, which would deliver all the benefits passengers want without unnecessary costs and delay. Under a proposed partnership with the transport authority, the operators’ plans would see the introduction of: smarter ticketing and better value fares; commitments on investment in extra buses and new low carbon vehicles; better information, on-board facilities, and a formal customer charter; financial savings for taxpayers; and a better voice for customers and local communities in their bus network. Stagecoach has set up a website, www.backthebus.com, where people in Tyne and Wear can find out more and also learn about the implications of the bus contracting plans. The consultation on the Nexus bus contracts proposal closes on 22 November and members of Tyne and Wear ITA are set to vote on whether to go ahead at a special meeting in March 2014.
Unite Newcastle Branch Secretary Tom Shoesmith, who is also Chairman of the Central Negotiating Committee covering all Stagecoach depots in Tyne and Wear and represents 99% of Stagecoach drivers in Newcastle, said, ‘Our members are at the sharp end of providing bus services in local communities across Tyne and Wear. They care about their passengers and the bus network. Bus workers also want the best deal that will mean stability for their families and not put at risk their financial future. That is why they are against the contract plans. Contracts will damage the bus network, hit living standards, and push up bills for everyone. That is why, instead, we want Nexus to work in partnership with the bus companies to deliver improvements.’