Landmark hearings to be held by the Quality Contract Scheme (QCS) Board in the North East have been delayed till the summer.
The board was scheduled to meet on 10 March for the first hearing to decide whether North East Combined Authority (Neca) plans to introduce London-style franchising arrangements in the bus market meet the necessary public interest standards.
The hearings have now been set for 13-17 July, and 20-24 July, with the North East Traffic Commissioner Kevin Rooney reporting back on 31 October.
A Nexus spokesman said: 'We are in a process defined by the QCS Board, and Nexus is working to the Board’s deadlines to submit evidence. This evidence will address all of the information presented to the QCS Board by the three national bus operators that operate in Tyne and Wear.
'The deadline for evidence that we are now working to has been extended by the QCS Board. This is a complex process in which a number of parties have asked for more time at various stages. The Board will consider in detail the evidence submitted by all parties.'
The move has been hailed as revolutionary by some in the transport sector, with many hoping it could spell the unravelling of the 1985 Transport Act, which deregulated bus services outside London.
Leading union Unite said the Neca scheme could provide a £272m economic boost to the region by 2025 ‘in terms of reduced fares, better services, less road congestion – and a reduction and freezing of the subsidies that now go to the private bus companies’.