Bus passengers and businesses have expressed their enormous relief at the return of Go North East services this weekend after a crippling strike was finally brought to an end.

It was announced on Friday morning that members of the Unite union had voted to accept a new pay deal from the company and end the industrial action which has devastated communities across the region.

Normal service is expected to resume on Saturday following the decision, which comes at the end of a fifth consecutive week of strike action and seventh overall in the last two months.

Hannah Allenby, an IT tutor who needs Go North East buses to get from her home in Bowburn to work in Houghton-le-Spring, said news of the strike’s resolution was “like Christmas Day” – but warned that the bitter and prolonged dispute has scarred the operator’s relationship with passengers.

The 29-year-old, who was forced to pay more than £30 to make that return journey in a taxi,  told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: “It is a huge, huge relief. But I don’t trust Go North East now – even if they give us free travel, I would try to avoid them if I could. 

“They have to build the trust back and I think it is going to take a long time for them to do that with the public. They need to apologise to each and every member of the public affected by this and all the businesses.

“But today is like Christmas Day, it is the best news I could hear and a big weight off everyone’s shoulders.”

Leslie Armstrong, a trader in Newcastle’s Grainger Market, said the return to normality on public transport would make a “huge difference” for shoppers and stallholders.

She added: “People who come in on the bus are our customer base here. In general, the market has been so quiet so hopefully on Saturday morning it will be bustling with people again.

“It has been an absolute nightmare. You would have hoped that they would have come up with a compromise before now without hurting so many people.

“I have one customer who comes in a lot but has not been able to get here during the strike, and he told me he was really depressed because he could not get out of the house. 

“Those are the sorts of people who come to the Grainger Market, the sort of people who aren’t comfortable in big shops but are here. It has not been good for them at all.”

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Jenny Roberts, of the Market Tavern pub in Chester-le-Street, was also relieved. Its landlord, Glen Sutherland, had been forced to resort to picking up regular customers in his car because of the dip in trade the pub had suffered.

Jenny said: “”It will massively help us if the buses are back on. We have been losing quite a bit of trade with the strikes, so everyone here is really happy that they are back tomorrow – customers and staff.

“It wasn’t only the buses, because of the strikes the taxis put their prices up too. It has been affecting us so much, so this is really good news and we have a lot of happy faces here.