Rescue package set out to help bus companies
A £4.5million rescue package responding to huge cuts being made by commercial bus companies has been set out.
The cuts to routes and services being made by Arriva, Go North East and Stagecoach in March 2022 would leave some communities in North Tyneside and Newcastle without bus services and cut links to shops and hospitals, business parks, schools and colleges.
Now Nexus has drawn up a £4.5m package to replace commercial services which would otherwise be lost or re-cast publicly-funded routes it already provides to mitigate the worst effects of cuts set to take effect from Sunday, March 27.
But it has warned that the scale of the cuts means that, despite an increase in funding from local authorities in Tyne and Wear, it is unable to replace every route under threat.
Huw Lewis, customer services director for Nexus, said: “The cuts being made by commercial companies as covid-relief funding ends represents the biggest single change to local bus services for 35 years.
“We have put together a £4.5m rescue package for Newcastle and North Tyneside which seeks to make sure as many people as possible still have a local bus they can catch to get to shops, the GP surgery and other essential services.
“We are also linking the new publicly-funded services we are creating and taking on with the high-frequency bus routes commercial companies continue to operate or Metro.
"As well as recasting our own pattern of services we have worked in partnership with the bus companies who have also revised their changes in places to better maintain local connections.
“The scale of the changes means we are not able to provide a like-for-like replacement to every route being cut, but we can seek to keep local people connected.
"We’re publishing our package so people have a chance to give feedback as we shape these new services for the future.”
Cllr Carl Johnson, Deputy Mayor at North Tyneside Council and Chair of the North East Joint Transport Committee Tyne and Wear subcommittee, said: “Buses play a vital role in communities across the North East, they help residents reach their jobs, elderly people connect with family and younger people socialise and reach educational services.
“However, even this cash injection will not be enough to replace all routes like-for-like, meaning people may have to walk further to find a bus, there will be less direct links to city centres and key employment sites and less frequent services across many routes.
“The Government must recognise this and continue to provide financial support to bus companies until passenger numbers are closer to pre-pandemic levels.
"Across the North East we have seen a 75% of passengers return to services, underlining just how critical these buses are to our communities.”
Commercial bus companies have agreed to make their changes in Newcastle and North Tyneside on March 27, the same date that new Nexus contracts will take effect.
This means changes to bus routes across the area, and in neighbouring Northumberland, will all happen at the same time.