Mayoral candidate Kim McGuinness and Blaydon MP Liz Twist have warned that a nearly £20m bid for green buses across the North East is being held up as ministers drag their feet on handing over the funds.
In August 2022 Liz Twist MP and Transport North East submitted a bid to Government, which was supported by all of the MPs in the region, to start decarbonising public transport.
The bid, signed off by the Department for Transport in January this year, was a £19.5m package of investment seeking to expand zero carbon options for all. It includes 52 new zero emission buses for Arriva, Go North East and Stagecoach, together with supporting infrastructure and 92 EV chargers across 36 sites straddling Park and Ride and key destinations.
But with inflation pushing up costs it is feared a Government delay in handing over the agreed funds could limit options for the North East. The delay is believed to be linked to new checks needed as part of the Government’s Subsidy Control Act.
The North East has the highest bus passenger numbers in England outside of London, per head of population, with some 112m passenger journeys a year.
Liz Twist is now taking this issue up with ministers to work on finding a solution.
She said: “I’ve long campaigned for the Government to stop looking at our buses with short-term sticking plasters as a solution. This bid has the potential to strengthen our bus fleets across the region as well as helping in the fight for cleaner air. Every extra moment it takes for ministers to resolve these issues is a moment in which we can’t deliver for my constituents and people across the North East, the Government need to match our ambition and get this scheme moving.”
Kim McGuinness, standing to be Labour’s first North East mayor, has called for Government to address the red-tape putting North East transport investment at risk.
She said: “Public transport keeps our region going and it is vital we have a modern, green fleet. But we are faced with a Government that seems to have no answer to inflation and no sense of urgency.
“How can it be right they have to wait nearly 12 months to see the funds for those new green buses arrive?
“As mayor I’ll bring buses under public-control and work with our councils on the transport priorities residents here want to see delivered.
“What this really shows us is why we need investment decisions about the North East taken in the North East. People getting on a bus here should have the final say, not Whitehall officials 300 miles away.”