BUS services in the North East will be boosted by new Government funding designed to increase frequency and create cheaper fares.

The seven local authorities in the region, including Durham County Council, will benefit from the new investment in a bid to align bus services with those in London.

It means short journeys will be up to 20 per cent cheaper, the Department for Transport said, with tickets for longer trips reduced by as much as 40 per cent.

Improvements under the areas’ bus service improvement plans include making services more frequent, better reliability, cheaper fares and greener vehicles.

The funding follows a £2million injection of council funds to stop routes being shut down. Savings from Durham County Council are to be used to help bus companies which have been losing money and passengers due to Covid-19.

Yet it comes as Arriva North East announced its bus fares for its services in Darlington and Teesside will increase from Sunday. Passengers will face an increase of up to £85 for some annual tickets in the region.

Read more: How Tees Valley transport services will benefit from new £310 million funding

It was revealed by the Department for Transport (DfT) on Monday that a Bus Service Improvement Plan (BSIP) for the region has won £163.5m of Government backing, a huge investment hailed as “great news” for passengers.

But while the allocation has been largely welcomed and is among the highest in the country, it is dramatically lower than the original £804m proposal that the North East had lodged a bid for last year.

That plan featured a massive collection of measures such as new stations and park and ride sites, more services running to rural areas and outside peak times, and the creation of a multi-modal ticket enabling seamless travel across bus, Metro, rail and ferry services.

Decision-makers will now have to choose which projects go ahead and which are shelved.

The £804m bid had been made last October after the Government announced £3bn of levelling up money to improve bus services outside London, however it later emerged that only £1.2bn of new cash was in fact on offer – making it all but certain that the North East would get nowhere near as much as it had asked for.

On the face of it, the North East secured more money than any part of England for bus improvements in Monday’s announcement – attracting the highest figure of investment out of 31 successful bidding areas, far more than the likes of Greater Manchester, Liverpool, or the West Midlands.

However, the figures are skewed because those regions are getting other funding separately through settlements being granted to metro mayors – a source of transport cash the North East has been denied access to until a new devolution deal is struck.

On a day of investment announcements for the region, the Tees Valley Combined Authority revealed how it will spend £310 million in transport improvement funding.The region’s bus network is set to get a £40million boost, with work to improve nine key corridors, providing better connectivity between the region’s main town centres, residential and employment areas, with extra funding to revamp the region’s bus shelters.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: “Buses are the most popular way of getting around in this country – but for too long people outside of London have had a raw deal.

“The investment we’re making today to ramp up the bus revolution will drive down fares at a time when people’s finances are tight and help connect communities across England.”

The government also confirmed that tram and light rail operators will benefit from over £37 million of government support including:

The Northern Echo: Tobyn Hughes praised the funding for the regionTobyn Hughes praised the funding for the region

Tobyn Hughes, managing director at Transport North East, said: “This announcement is great news for the region. The government has clearly recognised how important bus and Metro services are to the North East. 

“The award of £7.3m of funding for the Metro will allow services to be fully maintained over the next few months. 

“Furthermore, I am very pleased that the government agrees that our Bus Service Improvement Plan is worthy of major investment. We put forward a very strong plan, developed collaboratively with bus operators, Nexus, local authority partners, and a range of other supporters of bus services.

“This has been recognised by a funding award of £163.5 million over three years. This breaks down as £73,758,353 capital to prioritise buses on busy routes, and £89,762,819 revenue to support improved fares and services for local people – one of the highest allocations in the country.

“This funding will allow us to dramatically transform bus services across the North East, greatly improving the bus network for millions of passengers and encouraging more people to make the switch to bus. 

“We will continue our work on the Enhanced Partnership Scheme in order to unlock the payment of the indicative funding as soon as possible.”

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