RESIDENTS in Chester-le-Street have claimed that the town could soon “fall to rack and ruin” and become a “dead-beat-town” after it was revealed that the Go North East depot on Picktree Lane will be axed.

It was announced on Tuesday (June 7) that hundreds of bus drivers are set to be relocated several miles away from Chester-le-Street after plans to scrap the major County Durham depot.

An internal memo released by transport company Go North East titled "depot and company structure changes," appeared to blame the financial impact of 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.

Read more: Go North East confirms plan to close bus depot in Chester-le-Street

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

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.

The Northern Echo: Go North East announced it would be closing its Chester-le-Street depot on Picktree Lane. Picture: NORTHERN ECHOGo North East announced it would be closing its Chester-le-Street depot on Picktree Lane. Picture: NORTHERN ECHO

In the aftermath, The Northern Echo visited Chester-le-Street to see how the public felt - and this is what they said.

Alan McTeer, who lives just outside the town, claims that yet another closure in the town, after Barclays Bank revealed that it would be pulling its facility in August this year, will lead Chester-le-Street to become a “dead-beat town”.

He said: “If you look up the high street, there’s not much here. This all stems from industry and jobs, and jobs going elsewhere for Go North East is a massive part of this.

The Northern Echo: Alan McTeer. Picture: PATRICK GOULDSBROUGHAlan McTeer. Picture: PATRICK GOULDSBROUGH

“Several hundred jobs going elsewhere is an awful proposition.”

Walking along the high street, this negative reaction was unanimous, with Elizabeth Brannen, who relies heavily on buses to get around, called Go North East’s decision to close the depot “a cold, cold situation” that is “inspired by moneymaking”.

She said: “It’s a cold world when you’re cutting businesses and moving jobs elsewhere. These companies simply don’t care, it’s all just money.

The Northern Echo: Elizabeth Brannen (right). Picture: PATRICK GOULDSBROUGHElizabeth Brannen (right). Picture: PATRICK GOULDSBROUGH

“People have mortgages and other costs, and jobs are either at risk or getting moved – it’s a desperate situation.

“This has led to Barclays moving out, and the nearest one is Washington – I worry what will be left in Chester-le-Street.”

Elsewhere, resident Joan Findley, bemoaned the depot's closure within Chester-le-Street and claimed that companies “will do anything to keep us down.”

The Northern Echo: Joan Findley. Picture: PATRICK GOULDSBROUGHJoan Findley. Picture: PATRICK GOULDSBROUGH

She added: “They’ll do anything they can to keep workers down. Go North East are the main employers here, you can’t walk along the high street without seeing a bus driver.

“Without these employers, I can’t see how the town can sustain itself.”

The Northern Echo: Jack Birkett. Picture: PATRICK GOULDSBROUGHJack Birkett. Picture: PATRICK GOULDSBROUGH

Finally, Chester-le-Street man Jack Birkett worries about the future of the Picktree Lane depot building after Go North East pull the plug.

He told The Northern Echo: “It’s sad and awful that jobs will be going elsewhere.

“Another building will be lost to either development or will be knocked down – there truly is nothing left.”

In a statement, Go North East previously 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 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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