ARRIVA bus strikes have had a devastating impact on business this week, local traders have said.

Since Sunday January 6, Arriva has been forced to run services at minimum levels as 650 drivers across the region walked out in a dispute over pay and conditions.

The Northern Echo:

EMPTY STREETS: The scene outside Darlington’s Indoor Market yesterday afternoon

The strike has meant that today no buses will run in Darlington and Stockton and limited buses will run in the Durham, Teesside, East Cleveland and Whitby areas.

Last night Unite the Union announced plans for talks with Arriva on Thursday, January 17, and that another ten days of strike action will take place from January 27 to February 5.

Traders in Darlington have blamed the strike for a loss in takings and said the high street has been unusually quiet even with an expected post-Christmas lull.

Now business-owners have expressed concern over what further strikes will do to their trade.

Sandip Patel, owner of D&S News, situated between two bus stops on Prebend row, said his business relies on commuters using the buses.

He said: "We have seen a lot of difference because of the strike. Especially in the mornings it has been quiet, because the people who usually use the buses to get to work haven’t been here.”

At the Darlington Indoor Market, traders said that even during the quiet January period intakes have been lower than expected this time of year.


Wendy Morrison, of The Sweet Stall, said: “We have seen a big difference. There’s been nobody in. For our elderly customers, even if they can get a bus into town they’re frightened to in case they can’t get a bus back out.

“We are usually quiet this time of year with Christmas being over, but we have noticed a real difference in the takings. We have an idea of the number of takings we should be getting this time of year but right now we’re about half of that."


Amanda Metcalfe, owner of both Sew Fabrics and DJ Pet Supplies, added: “I usually take in between £60 and £200 a day. Thursday I took £6.60. I had three customers. It really has had a huge impact on business.

“This week I’ve been closing and going home at two because the whole of town has been dead. I’m dreading Saturday if no buses are running. It's going to make things even harder.

"We are actually closing down in a few weeks so these last opening times really count. It’s just devastating."

Councillor Nick Wallis said the recent strikes have been a wake-up call for the town.

He said: “In the very regrettable circumstances that has created the need for a strike, I think this week has been a lesson in the importance of buses for retail in the town.

"Around 3m journeys a year are made on buses which makes them fundamental to the health of the town centre.

“What I would like to do long-term would be to have discussions about access to encourage people to come into the town centre and we need to recognise how crucial buses are to that."

Unite Union's regional officer, Bob Bolam, said: “We have not taken the strike lightly and we understand the implications it may have on the town.

"We want to work with Arriva so that Darlington is not affected in the future.

“We will be entering into these talks in a constructive and positive frame of mind."