A NEW lifeline bus service has officially launched in Darlington.

The Pink Bus – so called because of its eye-catching pink paintwork – was set up by eVOLution, the West End Partnership, and Scarlet Band to serve the west end of Darlington after subsidised services in the town came to an end at the start of this year.

Following months of campaigning, the project was awarded £43,500 from Darlington Borough Council to set up and run the service for the next two years.

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The hourly service operates on the 16/16A route between Newton Aycliffe and the west end of Darlington, before heading into the town centre and onto the Harrowgate Hill area.

Councillor Charles Johnson, ward member for Hummersknott and a key player in securing the funding, said he was delighted with the new service.

He said: “Without this bus, five wards would have been isolated - unless you have a car or can get someone to pick you up, you would be trapped.

“We are extremely pleased it has all worked out. We all wanted it and all worked together to get it.”

At the end of the two years, Coun Johnson said they hope the service, which currently carries around 300 passengers per day, will be self-sufficient and continue without help from any grants.

Darlington MP, Jenny Chapman said: “I think it is life changing for the people that have lived in the area for many years and are in the habit of using local buses.

“If these services are removed, many people would have been left stranded.”

Mowden resident, Jackie Saint, who uses the bus regularly, said: “I am pleased with the local community here to champion the bus.

“It is especially important in Mowden as we are going to have a higher number of children attending the school, so we need a reliable bus service they can use.”

The service was awarded funding from the Department for Transport's local sustainable transport fund and community transport grant, which was available to community groups to set up local bus services in areas that have lost services as part of budget cuts.

Subsidised services in Bishopton, Sadberge and Neasham ended at the start of this year, and councillors are exploring alternative transport.