Bus service changes leave passengers concerned

Arriva North East bus in Darlington
Arriva North East hopes the changes will tackle delays [LDRS]

Changes to a bus company's network have left passengers concerned they will be less able to get around.

Arriva North East will withdraw two routes, and revise times or routes on 19 other services throughout County Durham, Darlington and Wearside, on 21 July.

The direct link between Sunderland and Hartlepool will be lost and one part of Peterlee will no longer be served.

The company says the changes are based on feedback from customers. Some told the BBC services were "bad" already.

The changes are partly commercial, with other revisions the result of Arriva winning contracts from Durham County Council to run loss-making but socially necessary services.

A spokesman said: “Our passengers have been very vocal about concerns around buses being delayed due to traffic congestion.

"These changes are designed to significantly improve on that," he added.

Peterlee bus station
Peterlee is a hub of several of the key changes to Arriva bus services [Google]

The withdrawal of route 22B between Peterlee and Durham means Arriva buses will no longer run through the Acre Rigg area north west of Peterlee town centre.

Arriva North East says most of this route is covered by a more frequent 22 bus running between Durham and Sunderland via Peterlee.

Route 23 will only run between Hartlepool and Peterlee, as longer journey times to and from Sunderland mean drivers cannot drive the full distance on their shift without exceeding legal limits on time at the wheel.

Passengers will need to change at Peterlee between routes 22 and 23, although a more frequent timetable is planned for the two routes.

Durham County Council said although buses were largely operated by private companies, the local authority steps in to provide funding where needed.

Cathy Knight, the council's integrated passenger transport manager, said: "These arrangements will ensure residents in the Acre Rigg Road area still have access to an hourly service, which will start earlier than the 22B currently does."

'Don't turn up'

Concerns have been expressed both at the current state of services and the changes to come.

One passenger in Peterlee told BBC Radio Tees: "They (buses) often don't turn up. There are other buses I can get, but it's not so convenient - a longer wait and a longer journey."

Another who uses the 22B bus said: "It's bad now, what's it going to be like in the future?

"It might be streamlining funds for them, but it's not doing us any good, the public."

Campaign for Better Transport said bus services were being reduced or cut in "too many places".

Silviya Barrett, from the group, added: "Buses are a vital service, supporting our health and wellbeing, our employment and education; they need to be properly funded and prioritised."

A summary of the changes is on the Arriva North East website.

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