Mayor hits back after deputy council leader in Northumberland warns of "threat" of bus nationalisation

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North East Mayor Kim McGuinness has defended plans to take the region’s bus services back into public ownership after they were described as a “threat” by a leading councillor.

The mayor has said doing so would give passengers more of a say. She also pointed out that buses were travelling significantly less than they did in 2010.

Coun Richard Wearmouth, the deputy leader of Northumberland County Council, stressed the importance of bus services to rural communities in a discussion on the council’s new environmental policy.

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He said: “There’s also been a lot of work to ensure people can access bus services. This is an interesting one as we move forward into a new combined authority where we see the threat of nationalisation of the buses.

An Arriva bus in Alnmouth.An Arriva bus in Alnmouth.
An Arriva bus in Alnmouth.

“What that will do for our services I don’t know, but we will fiercely defend them as we go on into the future. Rural bus services are a massive part of rural life and I have been reminded of that as we go up and down the county in the current election campaigning.”

Research by Friends of the Earth showed that bus services outside of London have fallen by 50% since 2008. Furthermore, bus use plummeted during the coronavirus pandemic, and has not yet returned to pre-pandemic levels in the North East.

Responding to the comments, Ms McGuinness said: “Fixing our buses is about more than getting people from A to B, it’s about creating access to opportunity.

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“Bringing buses back under public control allows residents more of a say over routes and fares. Since 2010 we have seen bus routes continually cut with our buses doing 30% fewer miles, and even more in Northumberland at 44%.

“This does not represent a good service to rural areas, or anywhere else. Where we have seen bus franchising adopted we have seen better reliability, passenger numbers increasing and fares going down.

“More people use the bus than any other mode of public transport so it’s crucial we improve these services. In the short term we’ll be working with bus operators to achieve this.

Buses are a service and they should go where people need them to not where profit takes them.”