The owner of a regional bus company which has served communities for over 100 years said rising costs and staff shortages contributed to closing the business.

Graeme Torrance, director of Scarlet Band for the last 15 years, paid tribute to all the workers and customers in towns, pit villages and rural communities throughout County Durham and Darlington.

But he felt the company could no longer continue to provide a full, reliable service due to the financial strain on their finances.

It means the 101-year-old business will cease operating on Saturday, October 29.

“Over the last couple of years we have struggled with a shortage of skilled staff, shortage of spare parts, increasing fuel prices, increasing tyre prices, increasing utility prices,” Mr Torrance said. “All of that put a strain on the company.”

The Northern Echo: Graeme Torrance, owner of Scarlet Band bus companyGraeme Torrance, owner of Scarlet Band bus company (Image: The Northern Echo)

Durham County Council said it has retained 22 of Scarlet band’s services after finding new operators, however three will be suspended next month until providers can be found. Just one Darlington service – the number 16 from Hummersknott and Mowden to North Road/Glebe Road via the hospital and the town centre – is affected by the closure.

Losing some of the Durham County Council tenders for the bus services affected Scarlet Band’s financial forecast, meaning its services would have been significantly reduced in the future.

Mr Torrance took over the operator in 2007 but felt like the time was right to call it day. He explained: “I took the decision that with the increasing cost pressures the best thing to do was to call a halt at the end of one contract period.

“All the drivers are guaranteed jobs. I thought that was the responsible thing to do to ensure all my staff were guaranteed a job and that's why we didn't also try and do these contracts and struggle to do them.

“Our customers would have suffered with a performance that was below the usual standard.”

The Northern Echo: The Scarlet Band number 16 bus service in Darlington will end The Scarlet Band number 16 bus service in Darlington will end (Image: The Northern Echo)

Through former pit villages, over the hills of Teesdale and through busy commuter towns across the North East Scarlet Band’s service in the community is something Mr Torrance is proud of.

“I think we're good at running services that nobody else wants to run,” he said when reflecting on his time in business, which included an overall 44 years in the transport industry.

He added: “It gives you a bit of pleasure. To be able to help people who use our services, there may only be a few on the bus, but they really need the bus service and we’re happy to provide that.”

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