Families face being "torn apart" and bus drivers forced to endure a 70-mile round trip if Go North East pushes ahead with plans to shut a major depot, it has been feared.

Drivers living as far away as Bishop Auckland and Spennymoor could face a lengthy commute if the company closes the depot in Chester-le-Street next month.

It comes as further concerns relating to the Picktree Lane depot's condition have been raised, with drivers claiming the site has been left to fall into disrepair.

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

The bus operator told staff last week that the depot would shut, with services and work transferred to depots at Gateshead, Washington, Consett and Sunderland.

The Northern Echo: Picture: GOOGLEPicture: GOOGLE

It has blamed this on the financial impact from the Covid pandemic, recent changes to the economy, and a pay claim from union members amid increases in the cost of living.

Meanwhile, it has suggested that the depot building is in "poor condition" and required substantial investment.

But last night, fresh concerns were raised by the workforce who have warned the personal toll the closure will have and the impact on bus services across County Durham. 

One worker said: "Many of our members are upset as to why they feel the need to disrupt their family and working lives to the extent.

Read more: Go North East giving motorists chance to drive buses

"It is such a short timescale and it has left families in a position of having to budget for a longer worker week including traveling time and extra expense of a longer commute."

The Northern Echo: The Gateshead Riverside depot Picture: GOOGLEThe Gateshead Riverside depot Picture: GOOGLE

It is understood drivers will be asked to transfer to a neighbouring depot, however if  they cannot fill enough vacancies at a particular site, they may be redeployed elsewhere.

Another worker said: "This is disturbing everyone's family life, they'll be spending more time travelling to get to another depot, especially if they end up at Gateshead where most of the work will likely end up. It doesn't make sense."

Last week, Unite the Union accused the firm of running the depot down and said bosses had not kept up to date with maintenance of the aging building.

Those concerns were again repeated as one worker said: "In not completing the necessary repairs they have jeopardised the future of what, in the not so distant past was the most profitable depot within the North East.

"As far as we are concerned the lack of investment from the company has caused the issues that are now being blamed for the depot closure.

"At no point in the past 20 years has any significant investment been made to the fabric of the building."

In addition, other workers have told The Echo that bus services face being heavily disrupted if the likes of the Angel 21 is transferred a further 12 miles up the road, which has been proposed.

They say that services could end up facing delays due to vehicles having further to travel before they start, and any passengers on broken down services will have to wait longer for a replacement to arrive.

What Go North East has said on the closure

A spokesperson for Go North East said: "We commenced a consultation process with colleague representatives, followed by a communication to all colleagues to advise them that this is now underway."

The company previously said the bus industry "faced a number of challeges," meaning bus operators are having to review services to see how they can operate them "more efficiently" - it also said the building is "very elderly" and more than 100 years old.

It said there will be no enforced driver or engineer redundancies amid the restructure as it offered reassurances to customers that, whilst some bus services are due to change from the end of july, the depot's closure will not impact any services.

Cathy Knight, Durham County Council’s integrated passenger transport manager, said: “We understand the concerns regarding the impact on bus services around County Durham, following Go North East’s decision that some of the routes it operates are no longer viable.

"We are working on measures which would maintain some of these services as a matter of urgency and expect to award contracts for key routes in due course.”

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