STRUGGLING bus services are to be support with a £2m injection of council funds to stop routes being shut down.

Savings are to be used to help bus companies which have been losing money and passengers due to Covid-19.

Council leaders have also put forward bids to Government in an "ambitious improvement programme".

These plans include a cap on fares, especially for young people, rural routes tailored to communities with buses "at least every two hours Monday to Saturday daytimes", two "demand response bus services", and improved ticketing, information and waiting facilities.

Read more: Plans to revive DLI Museum given go-ahead by council leaders

Durham County Council was told of the bus improvement plan at a cabinet meeting on Wednesday (March 16).

Amy Harhoff, director of regeneration, economy and growth, said there was "ongoing uncertainty" with bus services.

She told councillors: "Passenger numbers remain subdued, and temporary Government support for the industry is set to end soon.

"The amount is future national funding available is therefore likely to be significantly reduced.

"Bus companies across our region are starting to plan for the new financial year, with no guarantees of financial support from central Government."

The council proposed to redirect almost £2m savings to subsidise and protect bus services in the short term while the market recovers and Government funding is finalised.

Read more: Chalet park gets permission to build more lodges and homes

Cllr Elizabeth Scott, cabinet member for economy and partnerships, said: "I'm acutely aware of the problems that have beset bus services over the last two years as a consequence of the coronavirus pandemic.

"The huge reductions in patronage due to lockdowns and changes in travel demands place great strain on the sector.

"We were able to maintain a viable network.

The Northern Echo: Cllr Elizabeth Scott. Picture: Northern Echo.Cllr Elizabeth Scott. Picture: Northern Echo.

"We know that bus services are a lifeline to many residents in County Durham, helping them to get to and from places of work, school and college.

"That's why we've devised this proposal to support bus companies to keep running services which may be at risk of being cut with little certainty at present over future funding."

She said funding would be targeted where it was most beneficial.

Read more: Offices to be replaced in Durham to 'meet a massive need'

She added: "Support will be provided to bus services that are to be withdrawn, focusing on areas that would otherwise be without a service, which are often disadvantaged rural areas.

"Key travel patterns such as school or work travel will also be a focus."

She said she had introduced a "bus board" as a forum for operators, community representatives and the council, "to ensure residents' views on bus services are at the heart of discussions".

Cllr Mark Wilkes urged the Government to ensure support for a comprehensive service.

He said: "I support the £2m of funding being committed today to protect bus services."

He said the council also had its own service, Link2, which picks up residents not near a bus route - "one of the very few councils to offer such a service".

More information is available on the council's website or by calling 03000 269999.


Keep up to date with all the latest news on our website, or follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

You can also follow our dedicated County Durham Facebook page for all the latest in the area by clicking here.

For all the top news updates from right across the region straight to your inbox, sign up to our newsletter here.

Have you got a story for us? Contact our newsdesk on or contact 01325 505054