A PILOT scheme to improve bus services in rural areas of Tees Valley could be rolled out to villages on the western outskirts of Stockton.

Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen announced last month that the combined authority would be creating an 'Uber' style bus network to help people living in rural areas to get access to public transport.

As a result of the scheme, passengers will be able order buses on the phone, via an app or through a website.They will also be able to select destinations such as hospitals that are outside of the service area.

The system will then match-up with passengers travelling in the same direction and schedule vehicles to find the fastest route.

And Stockton North MP Alex Cunningham has welcomed news that three rural villages in his constituency could now be included into the ambitious project which could be up and running by the end of the year.

The Labour MP said: “Communities such as Stillington and Carlton have been cut off from the rest of Teesside following the loss of their only bus service, and people are now having to spend money on taxis to get to work, the hospital or to get into the high street.

“The Tees Valley Mayor has the power to take control of buses, and provide a service that puts people before profit. I welcome the announcement of an “Uber-style” bus pilot, and I am delighted that he has agreed to look into the inclusion of these villages in the pilot at my request.

“I seriously hope the villages do become part of the pilot – these communities desperately need a bus service.”

The scheme aims to help residents in more isolated communities access essential services and training and employment opportunities that are being created across Tees Valley.

It is expected the new model will be up and running by the end of 2019 for a minimum of three years.

If successful, there is potential to extend the service into other rural and possibly urban areas.

At last week's combined authority meeting the contents of it’s draft Strategic Transport Plan were also approved. The plan covers all major forms of transport, including road and rail, public transport and sustainable travel.

A 12-week consultation will be launched before the plan is adopted in early 2020.