HUNDREDS of bus drivers are set to be relocated several miles away after Go North East confirmed plans to scrap a major depot in County Durham.

The company, which runs services across the region, has confirmed consultations with staff have started as it now intends to close its Chester-le-Street depot.

It comes just months after The Northern Echo first revealed there were concerns among the workforce that the depot could close after documents emerged.

Read more: Go North East respond to claims Chester-le-Street depot could close

Last night, drivers said they had been informed of the planned closure in an internal memo which was sent out to all staff on Tuesday afternoon.

The Northern Echo: Chester-le-Street bus depot Picture: SARAH CALDECOTTChester-le-Street bus depot Picture: SARAH CALDECOTT

In the memo titled "depot and company structure changes," Go North East's Managing Director Martijn Gilbert said there are "financial challenges."

It appeared to blame the financial impact on the pandemic affecting demand for public transport, recent changes to the economy, and a pay claim from union members amid increases in the cost of living.

Meanwhile, it suggested that the depot building on Picktree Lane in the town was in "poor condition" and required substantial investment.

The memo said that as a result, the company was taking action in order to "improve" its financial position but that it still needed to do more.

It went onto explain a restructuring exercise would commence with the depot in Chester-le-Street wound down and "work" distributed to the firm's other depots.

The Northern Echo: Picture: GO NORTH EASTPicture: GO NORTH EAST

It is understood that drivers will be offered the chance to transfer to neighbouring depots including Gateshead, Sunderland, Washington or Consett.

Currently, dozens of routes including the 21 between Newcastle and Brandon and the X21 between Newcastle and West Auckland run from the depot, but those will be transferred.

Read more: Go North East makes 'difficult' decision and closes Peterlee depot

Earlier this year, drivers raised concerns that they may be forced to transfer or take redundancy after an official document suggested the Angel 21 would move to Gateshead if a bid to turn the fleet electric is successful.

At the time, drivers said this suggested the depot would close as the company would not invest in the deteriorating building, something which the company did not confirm or deny.

But in a statement confirming the blow, the company said that there would be no "enforced" redundancies among the driving or engineering teams amid the restructure.

It said: "Today local bus company Go North East has commenced a consultation with affected colleagues and their Trade Union representatives about closing its Chester-le-Street depot and moving routes to other surrounding depots in Consett, Sunderland and Gateshead.

"The bus industry has faced a number of challenges in emerging from the impact of the Covid pandemic, including changes to the demand for many services and substantial increases in costs which, combined, mean that bus operators are having to review services and see how they can operate them more efficiently.

The Northern Echo: Chester-le-Street bus depot Picture: SARAH CALDECOTTChester-le-Street bus depot Picture: SARAH CALDECOTT

"The Go North East depot at Chester-le-Street is over 100 years old, which the original part of the site tracing its history back to the formation of the Northern General Transport Company in 1912.

"The very elderly building requires considerable investment to keep it operational and this, along with changes to bus services that are currently out for consultation, means it is no longer financially viable to keep the large site operational."

Moving to offer reassurances to its customers, Go North East said that services would not be affected by the closure.

The company added: "Go North East has confirmed that there will be no enforced driver or workshop engineer redundancies as part of the closure, and whilst some bus services are due to change from the end of July, the closure of the depot in itself will not impact services for customers."

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