Plea to protect ‘vital lifeline’ bus in north of Newcastle after axed route given five-month reprieve

Communities in the north of Newcastle could be left without a bus service in a matter of months unless new funding is guaranteed, councillors fear.

Communities in the north of Newcastle could be left without a bus service in a matter of months unless new funding is guaranteed, councillors fear.

The city’s Liberal Democrats have condemned a “catastrophic reduction in the availability of public transport”, after it was announced that a key route would be axed.

Arriva confirmed recently that it would be scrapping the 46 and 46A services, which run between the city centre and the Great Park, from October 30.

While Tyne and Wear Metro operator Nexus has stepped in to save the route with public money, letting an emergency contract for a new X46 service, that is only a short-term measure guaranteed until next March.

Parklands ward councillor Christine Morrissey has called for its permanent future to be secured, but fears that expected Government spending cuts could threaten that and leave residents in areas like Melbury, Brunton Park and the Garden Village without a key transport link.

She said: “Residents of north Gosforth were very concerned to learn of the withdrawal of the 46 bus service to and from Newcastle which serves our local communities. While the temporary X46 service is very welcome, and credit to Nexus for introducing it quickly, we are worried that possible Government spending cuts will undermine local bus services even further. What is happening to our communities is a disgrace.”

Almost 600 people have signed a petition calling on Nexus to permanently secure the 46 route, with a service level equivalent to pre-pandemic times.

She added: “This particularly affects those without private cars, especially the elderly, who as a consequence will become more housebound and potentially will lead to an increased call on other public services like health. These buses are a vital lifeline for them.”

Announcing a reduction in services last month, Arriva blamed driver shortages as well as a review of “punctuality analysis and changes to some existing contractual services”.

As private bus operators have slashed timetables across the region this year as they struggle to recover from the impact of the pandemic, Nexus has come up with two rescue packages to save some key services – spending more than £10m.

Huw Lewis, customer services director at Nexus, said: “It seems a bit harsh to criticise Nexus when we have, in fact, stepped in to make sure Melbury, Brunton Park and Garden Village will still have a bus service next week after the commercial operator pulled out due to a shortage of drivers. We took action before we heard about the local petition, but this does demonstrate how important buses are to people living in Gosforth.

“We are providing the new X46 route on top of more than £10m of rescue packages we put in place earlier this year to stave off the worst effects of cuts by commercial bus operators across Tyne and Wear, which we based on widespread consultation with local councillors and the public. We have been clear that we can only maintain this revised network and services like the X46 beyond next year if the region receives funding earmarked for it under the Government’s Bus Service Improvement Plan.”