It has today (Monday, 20 February) been announced that the Tees Flex bus service has been extended for a further 18 months by Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen.
The demand responsive service was first launched with Stagecoach back in 2020 as a three-year pilot. However, just a month after the launch the UK was hit by the Covid pandemic and was placed into a nationwide lockdown.
The service was set up with the purpose of connecting people in rural areas to economic centres to enable them to access jobs and services.
The pilot will now be extended under the exact same conditions with the operational zones and prices unchanged.
Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen said: “Following a review of the Tees Flex service I am pleased to be able to announce that I have taken the decision to extend it for another 18-month period.
“As we continue our programme of creating good-quality local jobs, it is important that we look at the wider picture and make sure that people living in more rural parts of Teesside, Darlington, and Hartlepool have the same access to these opportunities.
“Completely unbeknown to us at the time, we launched the pilot at the worst possible time due to the Covid pandemic, and yet we still saw a significant amount of demand for the service.
“Having looked at the data I think it is the sensible decision to extend this trial so that we can see the true potential of demand responsive travel.
“It is unquestionable that Tees Flex is a lifeline to many people across our area and extending it is the right thing to do.
“I am pleased to give people across our area certainty of its future today.”
Jonathan Dulston, Leader of Darlington Borough Council and Tees Valley Combined Authority Cabinet Lead for Transport, said: “This is a decision that I am 100% behind and it is great news for Darlington.
“The Tees Flex service has been hugely popular right across Darlington but particularly for people in places like Sadberge. The blue buses have connected people from across Darlington to jobs, shops, and leisure, not to mention to our International Airport.
“A better-connected Darlington is a more prosperous Darlington and I am glad that we have been able to keep the Tees Flex service going.”
Cllr Shane Moore, Leader of Hartlepool Borough Council, said: “This is another boost for Hartlepool, and I welcome this decision.
“We have some really exciting plans for the town’s regeneration under the new Mayoral Development Corporation which will come in to force in the coming weeks.
“However, as we go forward with these plans, it is critical that people in places such as Elwick have access to good quality public transport. If we want to truly reenergise our town, we need to get as many people to come here as possible and the extension of the Tees Flex will help us do exactly that.”
Single and return journeys can be made to requested pick-up and drop-off points within one of three serviced areas to secondary destinations including train stations and hospitals across that borough. Tees Flex will also continue to serve Teesside International Airport.
Tees Flex can be booked via a smartphone app, a website or over the telephone. Operating six days a week, the service aims to help residents in more remote areas of the region access essential services, shops, amenities and job opportunities, or simply to see family and friends.