Improve bus and rail services including joint ticketing

Effective, affordable and well managed public transport is the bedrock of sustainability – economic, social and environmental. People need to access work, training and social life. When people can move around freely, it increases prosperity – every trip taken on the Metro generates £8.50 for the local economy. Yet people in rural Northumberland face isolation unless they can afford a car and the fuel to run it.

I will work through the Joint Transport Committee with Labour Authorities south of the Tyne to deliver a joint ticketing system. Like the system in place in other cities, this will be a simple tap-in, tap-out system that calculates the cheapest fare and puts a price cap on the total journey, with the smart ability to alter fares for certain categories of passenger – apprentices, for example.

In other cities, joint ticketing has led to an increase in public transport use of up to 40%. The technical systems are available – all that is needed is the will to make it happen.

I will develop an integrated public transport app, with a “Google Maps” style intelligence to calculate your best public transport route, and real time information on bus, train and Metro locations so you’re not waiting at the stop wondering when the next one’s coming. Similar systems exist elsewhere, and we’ll look at public-public partnerships – licensing technology from other cities in order to save costs.

At present the North of Tyne is unlike other Mayoral Authorities in not having bus franchising powers. Gaining these powers will be my first priority for further devolution, and I’ll work with the Labour Authorities south of the Tyne to make this happen. This will allow much better influence over bus companies, who naturally enough like to cherry pick profitable services. The current Conservative government made it illegal for local authorities to set up bus companies, but I will lobby for a change in the law. In any event, it is likely to change with an incoming Labour government during the Mayoral term of office.

I’ll commission a study into On Demand Transport, specially for rural Northumberland. Even with the best will in the world, you can’t have frequent buses to every village, or most of them will be empty. On Demand Transport allows people to, in effect, book-a-bus; a low emission vehicle fleet, connected to a smart software system, can then plot routes to get people to where they want to go. I’ll explore partnerships with existing transport operators, new cooperative businesses, or do it directly when we have either bus franchising or the legal right to set up bus companies. I will explore funding for promotional “free travel days” to encourage those who are not public transport users to leave their cars at home.

I will fund a bid, in conjunction with the other authorities that make up the Joint Transport Committee, for funding to expand the East Coast Main Line capacity so we have faster, more reliable trains to London and Edinburgh, and expand the Metro. This will include links to Washington, the Metro Centre, and as a priority, the Newcastle to Blyth and Ashington line. For technical reasons, this will in practice be different rolling stock, but integrated into the Metro operation.

HS2 is currently not planned to run full speed services to Newcastle. We cannot be left out of the high speed rail network. I have already begun lobbying to reverse this plan, and will fund the business case and development work to have dedicated high speed rail connections to the rest of the country, including north to Edinburgh.

I’ll lead by example. Under my leadership, there will be no Mayoral car or driver. I’ll get to work like everyone else – cycling or using public transport whenever possible, and when I need to drive at work, I’ll use a pool car like the rest of the staff, which will be a locally produced electric Nissan Leaf.

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