The Labour candidate for Tees Valley Mayor has pledged to cap all public transport fares at £2, if elected.

Chris McEwan wants to take back control of the buses and integrate local transport networks to work together.

He says he has watched the successes of Labour Mayors like Andy Burnham and Tracy Brabin with their transport systems.

Mr McEwan plans on introducing a £2 fare cap on public transport within the Tees Valley and free travel for 16-18 year olds.

He said: "Accessible and efficient transport is vital for all. I am committed to taking back control of our buses and integrating local transport networks to work seamlessly with buses, trains, and our airport.

"This will ensure smoother and more accessible travel options for all residents. Building on my commitment to accessible transport, I will implement a £2 fare cap on public transport, ensuring affordability and connectivity across our region. I will also introduce free travel for 16-18 year olds so they are able to access educational and employment opportunities.

"For the last 14 years, the Tories have run our transport network into the ground. They’ve overseen cut after cut, and done nothing to support some of our most isolated communities.

"If elected Tees Valley Mayor on May 2nd, I will connect our communities to opportunity."

However, incumbent mayor Lord Houchen said he does not believe this commitment is possible without raising mayoral taxes.

He said: "To implement these plans the Labour candidate would need to find around £33m every single year to subsidise their unfunded plan. As the Mayor has no revenue available for these plans, the only way to find this money is to raise an eye-watering mayoral tax on local people. 

"This is something I’ve promised will never happen as long as I am Mayor. Local people are taxed far too heavily but my Labour opponent has never had a problem with that, given he’s also personally responsible for increasing council tax for the residents of Darlington, reintroducing parking charges, and pushing Low Traffic Neighbourhoods in the town as deputy leader of the council. 

"The Labour candidate needs to come clean about his extortionate tax plans for Teesside, Darlington and Hartlepool - and be honest about his plan to impose an oppressive tax on local people of more than £225 a year on top of their already eye-watering council tax bills - at a time when people can least afford it. There is no other way to pay for this astronomical annual price tag."

In response to Lord Houchen, Mr McEwan said that he is not planning on raising tax.

He said: "I have no plans to raise tax. The Tories have no room to lecture people on financial management.

"Our tax burden is at a 70-year high and local authority funding is in tatters.

"Bringing our buses under public control makes economic sense, which other Labour Mayors around the country have shown.

"Profits from publicly controlled buses will be reinvested into connecting our local communities, not handed out to shareholders.

"This will be further supported by investment from the Freeport Dividend."

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Simon Thorley, the Liberal Democrat candidate, does not believe that Labour's plans go far enough.

Mr Thorley said: "Labour's plans fail to address the biggest issue with our public transport - that it doesn't matter how much tickets cost if there are no buses to catch - or if services are so unreliable that using buses to get around is impossible.

"If I'm elected in May, I'll not only bring buses under public control and introduce free travel for all under-18s, but also massively expand the network and frequency of services.

"The more passengers, the more we can reduce fares - it's a simple win-win. Capping train fares at £2 would cost a fortune, diverting investment from where it's needed most - our bus network."