Council leaders have been urged to "sort out the flipping buses" with services in Darlington labelled a "broken system".

One Arriva bus service was branded “the work of the devil” as councillors spoke out about difficulties at a Darlington Borough Council meeting.

At the meeting, Cllr Chris McEwan said he was asked by a resident about money from the Tees Valley Combined Authority.

"He said - I'm censoring his language - 'How much of that money is going to come into Darlington and sort out the flipping buses because they're an absolute disgrace?'"

The Northern Echo: Cllr Chris McEwan. Picture: Stuart Boulton.Cllr Chris McEwan. Picture: Stuart Boulton.

Council leader Cllr Jonathan Dulston: "The (Tees Valley) combined authority work on a whole host of new technologies to make sure the buses can be more productive, efficient and run on time.

“Passenger numbers aren’t high, services will decline, however, our job as a council is to make sure we have the right services at the right time, and that they will show up.

The Northern Echo: Cllr Jonathan Dulston. Picture: Sarah Caldecott.Cllr Jonathan Dulston. Picture: Sarah Caldecott.

“What you’ve got is an assurance from me as the leader of the council and my colleague Cllr Keir we’ll make sure we drive that consistency."

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Cllr Jan Cossins waited 45 minutes and said four buses didn’t turn up. She said: "I was waiting for a Number 2. It’s the work of the devil. It’s the worst bus route in Darlington and we really need it sorted. It’s desperate.”

Cllr Andy Keir responded that they had been pushing to improve reliability, and information on schedules would be updated and upgraded.

The Northern Echo: Cllr Andy Keir. Picture: Northern Echo.Cllr Andy Keir. Picture: Northern Echo.

He said: “That essence of making sure buses are available, and when they say they’re going to turn up they should turn up, we’re pushing very hard on Arriva through TVCA.”

Cllr Nick Wallis said: “You can’t ultimately fix a broken system. Not just in Darlington, you have a broken transport system as far as buses are concerned.

“The current system simply isn’t working. Certainly, matters have been exacerbated since Covid, in terms of driver availability and other issues. But fundamentally the system is broken.”

The Northern Echo: Cllr Nick Wallis. Picture: Stuart Boulton.Cllr Nick Wallis. Picture: Stuart Boulton.

He pointed to franchising in London and Greater Manchester giving authorities “real power” over bus operation and community links.

Cllr Keir said this would be a matter for the Tees Valley Combined Authority which negotiated with bus companies.

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Cllr Keir said: “I think the message is loud and clear. We did send a strongly worded letter to Arriva that the services were poor and they needed improving.”

An Arriva spokesman said: "We are aware of the recent criticism over bus services in Darlington and we’re committed to working closely with TVCA on the implementation of a Bus Service Improvement Plan, which we believe will lead to positive improvements across the Darlington network for our customers and communities."


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