Agenda item

Bus Services

Report of the Group Director of Services.


The Cabinet Member with the Local Services Portfolio introduced the report of the Group Director of Services (previously circulated) providing Members with an update on bus services within Darlington; outlining the issues currently being experienced; the work being undertaken to resolve those issues; and requesting that consideration be given to the release of funding to continue supporting Service 16 for a further two years.


The submitted report stated that Covid had been a challenging time for all bus operators as patronage significantly reduced across the Country; bus operators still required financial support from Government to maintain services; the majority of bus services in Darlington and across the Tees Valley were operated on a commercial basis; as the Tees Valley Combined Authority (TVCA) was the Local Transport Authority, it had the associated powers and responsibility for public transport; partnerships had been in place in relation to improving public transport between the Local Authorities and Combined Authority; in the last twelve months a more formal partnership had been developed with TVCA, the local authorities and the operators known as an Enhanced Bus Partnership; and that whilst in its infancy the partnership would invest significantly in infrastructure and other measures to improve public transport in the coming years.


It was reported that the recovery of bus patronage in Darlington was not as strong as other parts of the Tees Valley; recovery of patronage was important as the fares generated supported the network and without those fares there could be an impact on future sustainability of some parts of the network; and that performance issues were impacting the recovery and needed to be addressed.


Particular references were made to the issues impacting on recovery and performance; the actions that had been developed with Arriva to tackle those issues; and to Service 16, which was the single grant funded bus service operating under contract to the Council.


Concern was expressed at the meeting in respect of the bus services to rural areas of the Borough, in particular within the Hurworth Ward; the shortage of drivers and the current progress being made in terms of training new drivers; and the required subsidisation of Service 16.


Members also highlighted lost services in the North Road Ward; issues with services in the Red Hall and Lingfield Ward; and noted the wider issue of underfunding of the bus network across the country. The retention of the Pink Bus was welcomed. The Cabinet Member with the Local Services Portfolio responded thereon.


RESOLVED – (a)  That the work being done with, and by bus operators, to improve reliability of bus services in Darlington, as detailed in the submitted report, be noted.

(b)  That the use of £56,526 from the English National Concessionary Travel Scheme (ENCTS) budget and the ring-fenced grants for bus services from government to extend the Service 16 contract from October 2022 to September 2024, be approved.


REASON - To ensure that communities remain connected and able to access opportunities.

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