A BUS service brought in to "improve" links between a number of County Durham villages and towns was hampered by delays and cancellations on its very first day.

Go North East has faced criticism after the newly extended '6' between Newcastle and Lanchester saw services dropped due to "late operation" on Saturday and Sunday.

It comes as Tory MP Richard Holden recently hailed the extension of the service between Stanley and Lanchester as "significant" following the removal of another service.

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The bus company has since blamed disruption on severe congestion caused by the Newcastle game, while saying the new service is "good news" for residents.

But The Northern Echo understands that there are concerns that the new service could see problems due to regular traffic on the Tyneside leg of its journey.

The newly extended 6 last week replaced the locally-run 730 service, which solely operated between Stanley and Lanchester. 

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On social media, some customers suggested the extension of the service was not an improvement as they said a similar route had been tried before.

Addressing Mr Holden's statement previously welcoming the service, one person said: "Sorry Richard Holden MP as much as I appreciate what you are trying to do, an hourly service replaced by an hourly service in my opinion is not an improvement.

"The route from Lanchester and Burnhope to Metrocentre and Newcastle and return was tried a couple of years ago and it didn't work.

"(I) remember waiting in a very cold Stanley Bus Station for the bus from Metrocentre which regularly was very late due to traffic."

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Meanwhile, The Echo received messages from customers who said they believed the newly extended service would suffer problems as congestion builds in the run up to the festive period.

At the weekend, Go North East was forced to cancel two services between Newcastle and Stanley due to "late operation," while one service was from Stanley to Metrocentre had to be cancelled due to "operational issues."

In response Go North East said the extension of the 6 was positive as it said it had restored links between Newcastle, Metrocentre and Lanchester, Burnhope and South Moor.

Explaining that services faced disruption due to the Newcastle United home game on Saturday afternoon, the firm said a small number of journeys were affected.

Stephen King, Commercial Director at Go North East, said: “All journeys between Stanley and Lanchester on service 6 have operated over the weekend. 

"A small number of journeys in the early evening on Saturday operated late due to the NUFC home game.  

On the section of route between Newcastle and Stanley, a small number of journeys were curtailed as a result of severe congestion in Newcastle from the NUFC home game traffic but all journeys between Stanley and Lanchester operated.

"One trip was cancelled on Sunday due to driver availability, but there is no service on the Stanley-Lanchester section on Sundays. 

"The extension of service 6 from Stanley to Lanchester is good news for customers as, working in partnership with Durham County Council, it restores a link to Metrocentre and Newcastle for people living in Lanchester, South Moor and Burnhope.” 

Dave Wafer, Durham County Council’s head of transport and contract services, added: “We are aware that concerns have been raised regarding the reliability of some parts of Go North East’s service 6 at the weekend.

"At present, we are advised that there was no disruption on the Lanchester to Stanley section, which is one of the services we help to fund.

“We are also aware that some bus services are currently affected by a national driver shortage, especially at weekends. We continue to work closely with the operator to address this.”

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