Local people are being asked for their thoughts on bus services in the region in a national drive to get more people on board public transport.
As part of Government’s UK-wide Bus Back Better strategy, a local Bus Service Improvement Plan is being drawn up by Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen and the Combined Authority in partnership with local bus operators, detailing what can be done to work together to increase the number of people travelling by bus.
The plan will deliver on the wider Strategic Transport Plan, which aims to provide a high-quality, quick, affordable, reliable, low-carbon and safe transport network for people and freight to move within, to and from the region.
During the consultation, people will be able to give their opinion on everything from how satisfied they are with their bus services or why they may not be travelling on them to what the priorities should be for bus operators, such as Stagecoach and Arriva, in the future.
The deadline for responses to the questionnaire is Sunday 26 September.
Cllr Heather Scott, Transport Lead for the Tees Valley Combined Authority and Leader of Darlington Borough Council said: “We’ve recently seen lots of investment in our railway stations, the introduction of innovative travel options like e-scooters and plenty of news about improvements to our road network, but we have also been focusing on how to make our bus services even better.
“Buses provide a valuable lifeline to so many people in our region and before the coronavirus hit, 30million trips were taken per year on our network. As we look to recover following the pandemic, we’re keen to get numbers not just back up to that point, but encourage many more people hopping on board.
“We need the opinions of people from across Teesside, Darlington and Hartlepool who use buses often so we can understand what they’d like to see but, just as vitally, we want to hear from those who don’t use buses at all – or not very often – about why they aren’t and what would get them to do so.
“This is one important strand of our efforts to deliver a world-class transport system to give people living here the reliable, efficient and quick network that they deserve.”
Stagecoach North East Managing Director, Steve Walker, said: “Buses are a modern, accessible, environmentally friendly means of connecting people and joining up communities, as well as providing a critical link to employment, education, health and leisure facilities.
“We believe that providing an accessible travel solution which meets the needs of our customers is central to encouraging modal shift from the private car to greener, smarter public transport.
“In addition to sustained investments in our vehicles, Stagecoach has made a series of technology improvements to help make bus travel easier for customers, including the ‘Stagecoach Bus’ smartphone app, which provides customers with journey planning, next-stop information and live bus tracking, and enables people to buy and download bus tickets straight to their mobile phone.
“As transport specialists, we want to understand the needs of our customers so we can place ourselves at the heart of emerging developments and would implore local people to have their say.”
A spokesperson for Arriva added: “We welcome this focus on increasing passenger numbers by working together to deliver the best possible bus services for our region. We know how important public transport & bus journeys are for our communities.”
For more information, and to complete the questionnaire, visit teesvalley-ca.gov.uk/consultations. To request a hard copy of the questionnaire, call 01642 524400.