For a village that is within 10 miles of Newcastle, Consett and Stanley, getting a bus shouldn’t be this hard. But residents in Burnopfield say their livelihoods have been thrown upside down by a decline in services and reliability. 

People living in the County Durham village were some of the thousands affected by recent Go North East strikes, which reduced journeys down to a ‘skeleton service’ - but they say issues with the buses have persisted long before the strike action started. 

At Burnopfield Community Centre, residents are enjoying a festive-themed Christmas dinner put on by local volunteers. The space gives them a chance to meet friends and take part in a host of events during the cold and lonely winter months. 

But many who the Local Democracy Reporting Service spoke to said they struggle to even make it to their local centre due to the lack of public transport. 

The Northern Echo: Christine Clark and Betty Minto (left) at Burnopfield Community Centre Christine Clark and Betty Minto (left) at Burnopfield Community Centre (Image: The Northern Echo)Betty Minto, head trustee, is one of many volunteers at the Burnopfield Community Association helping feed families and has had a front seat view of the declining bus services. “People are so down with it, it’s affecting their mental health,” she said. 

“I’ve seen people come in here crying because they couldn’t get where they needed to. We’ve lent people taxi money out of our own purses. There’s three people here I’ll take home today, it’s tragic.” 

Tom Armstrong and Victoria Watson travelled from Stanley and have repeatedly had issues with the services.

Tom said: “We were in Newcastle and we tried to get back to Stanley but the bus just didn’t turn up. We were waiting for an hour and a half, the customers just aren’t thought of.”

The full restart of services from Saturday (November 2) means Go North East routes from Newcastle to Stanley and Consett, which both serve Burnopfield, will resume but residents say it is significantly less than what was previously offered. 

The timing of services is also an issue for passengers. Some routes avoid the village all day until the evening, while some stop after 4pm meaning residents must walk over 30 minutes to Rowlands Gill or Tantobie to catch a bus. 

The Northern Echo:

Pamela McMahon called for the X72 to serve the village again. “If you can’t even get to Consett then you’re snookered,” she said. “More certainty is needed.”

Health appointments are often rescheduled and clubs and societies have been put on hold, Lynn Morton said. “It’s a growing village and new houses are being built, so it’s really worrying that the service is almost non-existent.”

Local county councillor Declan Mulholland worries Burnopfield is being forgotten by bus companies and residents have become more isolated. He added: “The gradual cutback of services has had a really negative effect and there seems to be no consideration of how that’s impacted the community.” 

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The Northern Echo: The bus stop outside the community centre in Burnopfield The bus stop outside the community centre in Burnopfield (Image: The Northern Echo)

What’s the first thing Betty would do to improve services? “I would buy a bus and do it myself,” she said. 

“We’ve got a bus stop right outside the door but there are hardly any services. We looked to see if we could hire a private bus even to come just one day a week but it’s around £1,000 and we haven’t got that money. 

“We’ve got people who come in and say they can’t get anywhere, so we are stepping in and giving them a lift.