Bus services in County Durham will continue to receive multi-million pound investment in a bid to keep them on the road. 

Durham County Council agreed to continue funding up to £2.65m from its concessionary fares budget to support local providers and passengers. 

Local authorities are required to reimburse local bus service providers to cover money they lose when people make journeys using a concessionary pass through the English National Concessionary Travel Scheme (ENCTS.)

Bus usage across the region has fallen in recent years, however, and providers have been forced to scrap some routes from their timetables due to a lack of demand or funding. 

Cllr Elizabeth Scott, cabinet member for economy and partnerships, told a council cabinet meeting: “I am acutely aware of the problems that continue to impact bus services across the county as a consequence of the coronavirus pandemic. The huge reductions in patronage and changes in travel demand continues to place great strain on the sector. 

“We know that bus services are a lifeline to many residents in County Durham, helping them to and get from their places of work, schools or colleges and enable them to access essential services. 

Recommended reading: 

Grab our digital subscription for just £3 for 3 months and stay connected with local news

“That’s why we’ve devised this proposal to support bus companies to keep running, which may have been at risk of being cut. We recognise the viability of services remains a challenge and we are therefore looking to reaffirm our commitment to supporting bus routes, next financial year and potentially beyond.”

The local authority previously agreed to use underspend from its ENCTS budget to support bus routes where needed, both in 2022/23 and this financial year.

The underspend - which is the direct result of the reduction in concessionary journeys - has paid for additional contracts to maintain some of the services that had ceased to be viable.