GO NORTH EAST has been accused of "running" a major depot in County Durham down as the company prepares to close it next month, affecting hundreds of staff.

Unite the Union has fired back at the bus company after it announced sudden plans to close the Picktree Lane site next month. 

Last night, union bosses claimed the company had allowed the depot building to fall into disrepair as they accused bosses of not keeping up to date with maintenance.

Read more: Drivers left 'disgusted' at way they were told Go North East depot would close

The company has blamed the planned closure on "financial challenges," brought on by the pandemic, changes to the economy and a recent pay claim from the union amid increases in the cost of living.

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

Meanwhile, it has been suggested the depot building is currently in poor condition and would require substantial investment.

However, the firm has received huge backlash from workers, Unite the Union and the town's MP Kevan Jones is now involved.

On Friday, Mark Sanderson, Unite regional coordinating officer, told The Northern Echo: “We are currently in negotiations with the management of Go North East about the future of services to the travelling public and the impact of the proposed closure of the Chester-Le-Street depot on July 24.

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

“We are also making strong representations about the future job security of our driver and engineering members as the plan is to transfer them to other depots in the region and we need to ensure that their pay, and terms and conditions are fully protected.

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

“We have raised on numerous occasions speculation that depot will be closed and this has always been denied by the company.

"The cost of repairs to the depot would have not been necessary if managers had kept up to date with repairs in a timely fashion.

"The depot, which was once the most profitable in the region, has been continuously run down.

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

“Our members believe that a consultation that starts after the decision has been made is not a ‘consultation’ exercise in the true meaning of the word, but a hastily put together damage control exercise.

“However, the consultation has now started and Unite won’t be commenting further until it is concluded.”

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 to The Echo.

The Northern Echo: Picture: SARAH CALDECOTTPicture: SARAH CALDECOTT

The union said 170 workers at Go North East and a further 20 who drive for National Express are members are currently based at Chester-le-Street and face being displaced.

Under the plans to shut the depot, drivers and engineering staff will be given the opportunity to transfer to neighbouring depots in Sunderland, Washington, Consett or Gateshead.

However, workers have told The Echo that they fear being made jobless unless they relocate, in some cases up to 12 miles away from the depot in Chester-le-Street.

One worker, who wishes to remain anonymous, said staff had been left "gutted" and "devastated" by the company's decision and said: "Many (workers) don't have cars as they live locally.

"People are understandably upset, especially at the uncertainty of what’s going to happen next."

In response to the latest concerns, a spokesperson for Go North East said: "The formal consultation process is underway to work through the detail of the proposals, but we have given an assurance to driving and workshop engineering team colleagues that there will be no redundancies.

"Their pay, and terms and conditions will be fully protected when moving to our other depots in the area."


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