Quaylink fuels row over quality contracts
Go North East is converting the tendered Quaylink bus service to commercial operation from the end of the current contract in July 2015, following the withdrawal of funding by Newcastle city council and Gateshead council. Go North East will receive ‘de minimis’ support from Nexus for its operation which be be steadily reduced to zero after three years.
The operator is planning to announce future enhancements for the route, which currently has a peak vehicle requirement of nine vehicles and links the Baltic, Sage, Gateshead College and St Peter’s Basin with Newcastle city centre and Gateshead Interchange.
Go North East used the opportunity to drive home its campaign about the North East Combined Authority’s pursuit of a quality contract arrangement which is to be assessed by a special three-person board, headed by traffic commissioner Kevin Rooney in the coming months.
“With all our local authorities facing a funding crisis and some considering increasing council taxes, it’s inevitable that front-line services – including those buses funded by councils – will be hit,” says Go North East managing director Kevin Carr.
“I’m pleased that we’ve been able to come up with a plan that will continue to provide a seven-day-a-week bus service to such an important part of Newcastle and Gateshead.
“But this must bring in to question the Combined Authority’s view that bus services are best controlled by local authorities – if they can’t guarantee a service as important as this, how can they guarantee improvements to the bus network?”
Designline hybrid buses operated on the service when operated by Stagecoach.
Go North East took over the Quaylink contract from Stagecoach in 2010; at the time, Nexus estimated that 20,000 passengers a week used the Q1 and Q2 routes. The service was initially launched in 2005 with Stagecoach using ten New Zealand-built Designline hybrid buses that were owned by Nexus, and were redeployed when the contract switched to Go North East which took on a new fleet of Euro 5 Optare Versas.
The Quality Contract Scheme Board plans to hold oral evidence sessions into the proposed scheme for Tyne and Wear in March and April and will publish its findings by 31 May.