Troubled bus services will get a boost with 11 new drivers starting soon, councillors have been told.

The state of buses in Darlington has been the subject of heated discussion in council meetings recently.

It was raised again at a Darlington Borough Council communities and local services scrutiny committee meeting on Thursday (August 25).

Read more: Arriva bus services in Darlington criticised amid a 'broken system'

Cllr Jan Cossins had previously referred to the Number 2 service in the town as "the work of the devil" and "the worst bus route in Darlington".

She raised the same service again in this meeting, saying it had now been reduced to every 20 minutes.

She said: "They're still not turning up on time. It's just absolutely bonkers. We need to put more support for the buses."

The Northern Echo: Cllr Jan Cossins. Picture: Darlington Borough Council.Cllr Jan Cossins. Picture: Darlington Borough Council.

Andrew Casey, the council's head of highway network management, replied: "We don't run buses. We can only influence what the bus operators do.

"We do work very closely with the operators. We have recently introduced a revised timetable to try to get journey time reliability back in, so if we say there's a bus coming every 15 minutes, we try and hit that.

"They're obviously still failing on service 2 so we'll pick that up."

Read more: £2m support to struggling Durham bus services

Transport planning manager Gill Hutchinson said Arriva had reduced services in June.

He said: "That was purely down to the fact that they just can't recruit drivers, probably stemming from Covid.

"But we have worked with them and with the TVCA over the last couple of weeks and months to try and stimulate the market.

"We've supported them with recruitment events. They've been quite successful. They've got 11 drivers in the pipeline, they need to go through training.

"We are expecting those 11 drivers to start in a couple of months' time and that will help to get back on track in terms of reliability and reintroducing services that were taken away in mid-June.

"Hopefully we will see in a couple of months things will start to improve."

Read more: Impassioned plea for better bus services in County Durham

Cllr Ian Bell said services were not carrying up-to-date information: "We don't even know if the buses are coming or not so that needs to be updated as a matter of urgency, I think."

Ms Hutchinson said: "We will be making improvements through the Tees Valley Bus Partnership."

Mr Casey presented transport plans and a parking strategy for the town during the meeting.

The main transport plan sets out aims to maintain and manage a resilient system, reduce its impact on the environment, support health and wellbeing, improve road safety, link to communities and job or training opportunities and support a revitalised transformed town centre.

It lists projects until 2030 including the £25m Darlington Station renovation, Rail Heritage Quarter and other improvements, cycling facilities, electric vehicle charging, traffic control systems, safety measures, 20mph zones and maintenance to roads and footpaths.

The council is inviting people to comment on the plans in consultation which is open until September 2.

Councillor Hilary Allen said it was a "brilliant report and a lovely vision" but asked for something more concrete, while Cllr Pauline Culley said it was "just aspirational".

Mr Casey replied such strategies had to be flexible enough to deal with changes, and their purpose was to set out priorities."

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