Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen and the Combined Authority have signed-off advanced funding for four major transport schemes worth £45million.
The cash will allow work to begin on a range of projects covering public transport, sustainable travel and green vehicles.
Funding has been made available for a study to pinpoint the best locations to roll-out more electric vehicle charging points across Tees Valley and to promote the uptake of electric vehicles across the region.
Work will also be carried out to improve bus, cycling and walking routes across the region. This will increase the efficiency of bus services, while also encouraging more local people to take up healthier forms of travel by delivering better, safer cycling and walking infrastructure.
Finally, initial cash has been agreed to kick-start the pilot of an “Uber-style” on-demand bus service covering rural areas of Darlington, Hartlepool, Stockton-on-Tees and Redcar & Cleveland. The three-year pilot will help people in more isolated locations access essential services, training and employment.
This new solution comes as part of a drive to improve public transport in the region.
The new service will allow passengers to book a journey in advance on either a smartphone app, via a website or over the telephone. Algorithms then match passengers travelling in the same direction and schedule vehicles in real-time to find the optimal route for their trip.
The service will use small minibuses and, unlike a traditional bus service, there are no fixed routes. Instead journeys are determined by where passengers want to go within a predefined geographical service area.
The technology will also help provide more public transport options for passengers going to and from Teesside International Airport.
Mayor Houchen said: “Improving local transport across the Tees Valley and making sure local people can quickly, easily and cheaply get around our region is essential. People need to be able to get to hospital appointments, college, work and the high street and that’s why I’m making sure these projects are kick-started with the funding they need.
“For too long local people have had to endure poor bus services. I am not going to sit by and do nothing as residents outside of urban areas are forced to go without the transport they have a right to expect. The old way of doing things has failed, so I have decided to step in and try something new. The pilot for our “Uber-style” on-demand bus service will make sure local people in rural areas of the Tees Valley get the bus connection they rightly demand.”
In January 2019, the Mayor and Combined Authority Cabinet agreed a £588.2million ten-year Investment Plan, which committed £256.7million to transforming transport across Tees Valley.
Later this month, a Strategic Transport Plan which outlines the future of travel across the region will be going out for public consultation. The 12-week consultation will be available online and also involve six events across the five Tees Valley boroughs.