When the X21 bus service was scrapped in July, passengers warned they would not be able to get to work, college or healthcare appointments. Some even wondered whether they would be able to leave their villages ever again. 

Bus operator Arriva withdrew the service along with dozens of others in County Durham, Darlington and the Tees Valley, and despite calls from residents no replacement service has been introduced. 

The X21 service provided a direct link from Peterlee to Darlington, stopping in Trimdon, Sedgefield and Newton Aycliffe among others, all within an hour and a half at peak times.

Arriva said the service was scrapped due to a reduction in concessionary funding support from Durham County Council and unsustainable passenger demand. The service was replaced between Peterlee and Sedgefield by a “revised and increased service X22”. 

The bus operator added: “This however does mean there will be no direct link to Newton Aycliffe or Darlington from Sedgefield, Trimdons, Wingate and Peterlee. This is due to unsustainable passenger demand.”

Now, passengers are faced with travelling on multiple buses for a journey that was once a lot quicker. 

How long do bus journeys now take?

Those wanting to travel to Darlington from Peterlee can catch a bus to Stockton and change onto another service that travels along the A66. 

But what was once around an hour's journey from Peterlee to Newton Aycliffe now takes two buses and one hour 55 minutes. And for what is just a 20 minute journey by car, Trimdon to Newton Aycliffe now takes three buses and an hour and a half. 

Cllr Jake Miller, of Trimdon and Thornley, said he is regularly inundated with complaints from residents about the amount of buses not turning up. 

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“The priority needs to be bus services in our rural communities and if not it cuts them off from our main towns and the city. People are paying £20 a time in a taxi to get to and from the doctors, and that’s not sustainable.”

The extension of the £2 adult bus fare across the North East (£1 for young people) is a positive move but more needs to be done, Cllr Miller said. 

“It’s great that there’s a £2 fare but weighing that up with not being able to get to work or having to get your kids up at six o’clock in the morning to get them into school for nine, people are either preferring taxis or not going at all.” 

In June, Durham County Council said it followed government guidance on reimbursing for concessionary journeys following Arriva's criticism. 

In a statement issues at the time, Cathy Knight, integrated passenger transport manager, said: “The decision to withdraw or change services is a private one for Arriva although we will work with them and other operators to support alternative provision where we can.

“We are happy to continue dialogue with Arriva and other operators to work in partnership and influence the provision of bus services.”