Bus operators across Tyne and Wear receive around £62 million a year from the taxpayer, in one form or another.
Yet, we have little to no say over bus services.
Routes are cut with minimal notice, we see regular fare increases and we can’t always easily get to work, school or health centres.
Many local people rely on bus services but feel they don’t have a voice.
De-regulation has failed and we need to find a new way of providing bus services.
Nexus are considering bringing in a system called Quality Contracts.
This would mean that bus operators would bid for routes, the public would have a greater say and we’d see integrated ticketing.
It would be more transparent, accountable and provide better value for money.
These reasonable proposals have been met with fury by the bus operators.
There have been threats to make staff redundant and pull out of the region altogether.
There have even been comparisons to Marx, Lenin and Trotsky.
The bus operators are going all out to defend the status quo and protect the current arrangements which allow them to largely do as they like.
I have long campaigned for an improved bus service that meets the needs of local people.
That’s why I’ve launched The Big Bus Campaign calling on local people to co-sign my letter to the councillors on the Integrated Transport Authority.
They will decide whether Nexus can continue to develop a London-style Quality Contract scheme.
Go North East recently announced a consultation on plans to cut and alter bus routes on Wearside. Many constituents have already contacted me to express their concern at some of these proposed changes.
In the past, people have complained that they felt the outcome was a foregone conclusion and they weren’t listened to.
I hope this time it’s different, but Go North East are helping to make the case for change.
This article was originally published in the Sunderland Echo in August 2012