As I've said before, I want UNITE and Go North East to get round the table to sort this situation out. There could be more talks between them or the could go through ACAS - the independent arbitration model. I don't think that the operator and the union are that far apart.
I spoke to the Newcastle Chronicle about the situation here yesterday as I announced the England-wide expansion of the £2 bus fare scheme until the end of 2024: https://www.chroniclelive.co.uk/.../go-north-east-bus...
Both the Union and Go North East have made their positions clear. Please read both their statements in the attached images so you know what I know.
Ever since I became a Transport Minister I've done everything I can to get more funding into our bus networks: including the #GetAroundForTwoPound fare, extra cash for Councils through Bus Service Improvement Plans (BSIPs) and extra funding through BSIP+ and Bus Service Operator Grant (BSOG+) too. I don't want to see all this positive work undone or undermine the long-term work being done cross-party in the North East to deliver real bus service improvements, backed up by cash from central Government.
Since the pandemic, central Government could not have been more supportive of the buses. Operators and Local Authorities have received more than £3.5 billion of central Government funding nationwide. The North East has been a massive beneficiary of this. in addition to our fares being capped at £2, this year we have received £163 million for our buses over three years to drive real improvements in services and lower fare for young people and free fares for the most vulnerable care leavers.
Long strikes would potentially do irreversible damage to our local transport network and undermine buses for the future. In my inbox, I have received message from constituents of hospital appointments missed, new job interviews missed and family members isolated because of the strike. I want to see a fair deal reached for both sides ASAP.
Best wishes and I hope that both sides can put passengers first and come to a deal quickly.