A PILOT scheme to create an Uber-style bus service covering rural areas around the Tees Valley will soon begin.

The move comes after it was approved by Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen and the Combined Authority.

The three-year pilot scheme is expected to help people in more isolated locations to access training, employment and essential services more easily.

The authority has now approved initial cash to kick-start the pilot scheme.

Two other transport projects will get underway, including a study to pinpoint the best locations to roll-out more electric vehicle charging points across the Tees Valley, and to promote the uptake of electric vehicles in the region.

Work will also be carried out to improve bus, cycling and walking routes across the region.

This is expected to increase the efficiency of bus services, while also encouraging more local people to take up healthier forms of travel by delivering better cycling and walking infrastructure.

The new Uber-style 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 is also expected to be used by people going to and from Teesside International Airport.

Mr Houchen said: “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."