Bus service confidence 'at all time low'

View of the back of a bus and the front of another on a street in Durham City Centre
The impact of the pandemic has cut passenger levels and fare income [LDRS]

Public confidence in a county's bus service is at an "all time low", transport bosses have been warned.

Despite a multimillion investment plan to "improve connectivity" in County Durham, timetable changes and cost-cutting measures by operators have hit services and public trust.

The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic has also cut passenger levels and fare income.

However, transport bosses said it could be time to "talk our buses up", thanks to a multimillion funding boost.

The £136m government funding is part of the Bus Service Improvement Plan (BSIP) for the North East.

A report to councillors said this would be used to create new services, increase frequencies, and allow cheap fares to continue, Local Democracy Reporting Service said.

'Visibly distressed'

Meanwhile, the joint administration in charge of Durham County Council said it had continually campaigned for improvements to bus services.

The group of Liberal Democrat, Conservative, and independent councillors said it had invested millions to create new services and to keep others running where commercial operators decided they were no longer viable.

Projects included a new bus station for Durham City, with another to follow at Bishop Auckland, the expansion of the Sniperley Park and Ride site, several schemes to enhance road network, and "significant strides to improve the county’s walking and cycling network".

The frontage of the new bus station/transport hub in Durham City Centre
A new £10.4m transport hub was opened in the city centre in January [Durham County Council]

But councillor Jake Miller, Labour member for Trimdon and Thornley, said these only benefitted residents of the city of Durham, and not his local area.

"[It] does nothing for the people of...the wider county, who are trying to catch a bus every morning, for it not to show up.

"It does nothing for those who are at risk of losing employment because buses are constantly late."

And cuts to bus routes in Sedgefield were also raised.

Independent councillor Chris Lines said: "Residents who spoke with me were visibly distressed about the current state of play and very worried about the future status of bus services."

The meeting was also told the newly-formed North East Combined Authority had pledged to improve services.

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