Tees Flex, the region’s on-demand bus service, has gone from strength to strength in its second year with the vehicles having now clocked up almost enough miles to go to the moon and back – twice.
Since Tees Flex was launched by Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen in February 2020, it has completed 111,375 rides, travelling a total of 908,570 miles.
In some periods demand for the service has almost doubled, with 6,246 rides taking place in one month between January and February 2022 versus just 3,636 in the same period the previous year, an increase of 42%.
Despite being launched just ahead of the first coronavirus lockdown, the service has proved popular and offered a vital lifeline to help keep the region’s most isolated communities in Darlington & Stockton, Hartlepool and Redcar & Cleveland connected throughout the pandemic.
The £3million service has been funded by the Tees Valley Mayor and Combined Authority and is currently operated by Stagecoach on an initial three-year pilot, which was expanded to serve even more communities in August 2020.
Local people have been happy with the service too, with Tees Flex holding a 4.9 out of 5 satisfaction rating and many singing its praises.
Tees Flex regular Heather Taylor said: “The introduction of Tees Flex has benefitted me hugely. It would cost me so much more to make short journeys via taxi, and Tees Flex has provided a great alternative. The drivers are so friendly and the Customer Service team just can’t do enough to help.”
Mayor Houchen said: “Tees Flex has gone to the moon and back twice – and these new figures have left me over the moon as well! They show how right we were to introduce this innovative new scheme and it’s just getting better and better as the pandemic restrictions have eased and we’re getting to see the true potential of the service.
“It’s not just about cold, hard statistics, though. The feedback on how our service is helping thousands of local people across Teesside, Darlington and Hartlepool is really at the heart of why we’re doing this. It’s supporting all of those people who don’t have cars of their own or access to other forms of public transport who could feel alone and vulnerable, especially during the difficult past two years.
“It’s giving people a lifeline, to get to work or education, to get to hospital, do their shopping or just see friends and family. I’m delighted too that it’s rated so highly by its loyal and growing customer base.
“This next year, when we’re totally free of lockdown, will be the real litmus test but I have no doubt we’ll have bigger and better things to report when this pilot ends.”
Stagecoach North East Managing Director, Steve Walker, said: “We’re thrilled to see Tees Flex bring its second year to another successful conclusion. Despite the challenges presented by the coronavirus pandemic, the service has demonstrated durability and it is testament to the efforts of our local team that Tees Flex is held in such high esteem.
“Working in partnership with the Mayor and Tees Valley Combined Authority, we have delivered the innovative and affordable transport solution we set out to achieve, ensuring local communities stay connected with access to employment, education, skills and training, and healthcare.”
Operating six days a week, Tees Flex can be booked via a smartphone app, a website or over the telephone.
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.