London-style bus regulation needed to oil wheels of Hartlepool economy says shadow minister

Hartlepool transport interchange next to the railway station.
Hartlepool transport interchange next to the railway station.

A North East politician says greater transport connectivity is key to helping the economies of Hartlepool and the Tees Valley grow.

Shadow Transport Secretary Andy McDonald says buses should come under London-style regulation to put the needs of passengers first instead of private operators’ profits.

Shadow Transport Secretary Andy McDonald MP

Shadow Transport Secretary Andy McDonald MP

A £150,000 study to see if such a system would work here has been commissioned by Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen.

Mr McDonald, who is also MP for Middlesbrough, said: “Connections between our major conurbations is simply unacceptable.

“We’ve got to have much better integration of our transport systems across the Tees Valley if we are going to grow our economies.”

He said trains were critical, but added: “The most important mode of transport are our buses.

“If left as they are in a deregulated system with private operators extracting maximum profitability from popular routes it does mean it’s not serving our businesses, economies and communities.

“If they were regulated like London that oils the wheels of the economy.

“The Tees Valley Mayor shows no signs of fully embracing this here.”

In 1986, local bus services outside London were deregulated by the Conservative government opening the door to private licensed operators who decide their own routes.

Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen said the region does need a joined up transport network that puts passengers first.

Responding to Andy McDonald’s comments, he said: “People rightly demand a modern, accessible and affordable bus service that everyone is able to use.

“In order to deliver this all options should be on the table – including bus franchising.

“That’s why I have committed £150,000 to carry out an initial feasibility study into whether a regulated system, like we see in London, would work in the Tees Valley.

“I’ve been very clear that the Tees Valley needs a joined-up transport network, with simple fares and ticketing, that puts the passenger first and guarantees the best value ticket for their journey while providing a regular service.

“Our bus companies are doing the best they can in the face of subsidy cuts by local councils, but it would be wrong of us not to look at whether there are other models that would work too.

“As mayor I have the power to re-regulate the buses, but any decision has to be evidence based and this initial assessment will give us the evidence we need to move forward.

“But it is essential that the interests of passengers are at the centre of any decisions we make.”