A THREE-year deal has been struck to offer an “Uber-style” bus service across the Tees Valley starting in the new year. 

Transport giant Stagecoach North East will run the pilot which will allow passengers to book a bus on their smartphone across rural stretches of the region from this January. 

Leaders of the Tees Valley Combined Authority (TVCA) signed off the “demand responsive transport” (DRT) contract behind closed doors on Friday.

The “Uber-style” service has no fixed timetable – instead, algorithms calculate the fastest route in a given area to pick up and take passengers where they want to go. 

Passengers will be able to order a bus in advance via a website, on an app or over the telephone. 

A 45-minute response time for pick ups has been drawn up by the TVCA.

After the meeting, Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen said he hoped it would ease the transport woes of the region’s rural communities. 

He said: “Our new on-demand ‘Uber-style’ bus service will mean people in the most isolated areas of the region will no-longer feel cut off, and they’ll be able to access services and employment opportunities they wouldn’t otherwise have been able to do.”

Sadberge and Low Dinsdale east of Darlington will be served by the pilot as well as Elwick and West Hartlepool.

A swathe of East Cleveland east of Guisborough and Saltburn will also be part of the three-year scheme, as will villages west of Stockton which were added after pleas from Stockton North MP Alex Cunningham.

Steve Walker, Stagecoach North East manager, was very pleased to get the contract.

He added: “The introduction of this DRT service is a vital step towards connecting members of our rural communities with employment opportunities, transport links, work and education by using state-of-the-art mobile app technology developed specifically for this new transport service.

“DRT provides greater flexibility for our customers than ever before, allowing them to design their own route across the Tees Valley and bridging the gap between bus and taxi services.

“Even at this early stage, work is already well underway and we are excited to see the service come to fruition.”