Bus services in County Durham and the Tees Valley have been ranked as some of the worst in England. 

Just 75 per cent of passengers were satisfied with their journey in County Durham - the second worst out of 34 areas. In Tees Valley 76 per cent of passengers were satisfied, a survey by watchdog Transport Focus indicated.

Arriva in County Durham was ranked the worst bus operator in the wider North East area, the data covering 55 operators showed. Stagecoach in Tees Valley and Go North East, which operates in County Durham, scored higher among passengers.

Waiting times in the two regions were rated the worst out of all areas. Just 60 per cent of people in Tees Valley and County Durham said they were satisfied. Bus drivers were roundly supported in the region. 

The survey found that services in rural areas, including County Durham, are less frequent, the routes can be less convenient, congestion can still be an issue and if a bus doesn’t turn up, the wait for the next one can be much longer.

Dozens of Arriva routes in County Durham and Darlington were axed by the bus operator last year after it said it was unable to agree a concessionary deal with local authorities. Some routes have since been picked up by other operators but the cuts continue to impact communities today. Overall bus use remains lower than pre-pandemic levels and is not set to succeed that any time soon. 

Initiatives such as the rollout of £1 fares for children, £2 for adults, have been welcomed but campaigners and politicians say more needs to be done. County Durham residents have warned the lack of accessibility and connectivity to other parts of the North East means they are unable to travel. 

The Northern Echo: Trimdon residents fear they can't leave after bus cutsTrimdon residents fear they can't leave after bus cuts (Image: The Northern Echo)

The X21 service provided a direct link from Peterlee to Darlington, stopping in Trimdon, Sedgefield and Newton Aycliffe, but was scrapped due to “unsustainable passenger demand”, Arriva said. 

Margaret Scott is one of many residents affected by the changes. “I was born in Trimdon 75 years ago and there has always been a bus service from Peterlee to Darlingto,” she said.  

“Now, I cannot travel directly to Sedgefield to visit family and Trimdon to visit friends,” she said. “To get to Sedgefield would mean two buses, a journey allowing a waiting time of well over an hour compared to just over ten minutes on the X21 bus.”

She added that several services continue to operate between Newton Aycliffe and Darlington but connectivity elsewhere has broken. 

For Deborah Humprhey’s family, buses are essential. The Stanley resident said her granddaughter repeatedly waits in early morning freezing temperatures waiting for buses to college in Newcastle that don’t turn up. 

She said: “The bus at 7am didn’t come and the next one was an hour later but was then 15 minutes late. She got on the bus and it got stuck in traffic, which made it even later. She’s been pulled at college about her timekeeping and was warned she could fail. 

“What on earth is going on? It seems to be happening again and again.”

Arriva said the surveys were undertaken in the immediate aftermath of another bus operator’s industrial action and following service changes - but admitted there have been challenges and said it understands it needs to improve. 

Kim Cain, area director of Arriva North East said: “It’s important to consider these surveys were undertaken in the immediate aftermath of another bus operator’s industrial action, as well as the impact of service changes following the reduction of concessionary reimbursements, both of which had an impact on passengers’ perception of transport.

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“At Arriva, we welcome this feedback and it is clear that the scores around waiting times are disappointing for the County Durham area. We do understand that more work needs to be done, particularly in relation to punctuality.

“Arriva is already working on plans to improve services in County Durham with over 95% of services on track to be reviewed, with intentions to further improve punctuality, by July 2024

“It is satisfying to see that Arriva is 10th in the country for value for money and this reflects the hard work of the partnership working with bus operators, Durham County Council and Transport North East to deliver simplified and reduced ticket prices across the area and wider region.”

Satisfaction with value for money by area

10 Durham 74% 

13 Tees Valley 73%

Satisfaction with waiting time by area

33 Durham 60% 

34 Tees Valley 60% 

Overall journey satisfaction by operator

26 Go North East 82%

43 Stagecoach in Tees Valley 77%

49 Arriva in Tees Valley 75%

52 Arriva in County Durham 70% 

Satisfaction with value for money by operator

17 Arriva in County Durham 73%

21 Arriva in Tees Valley 72%

24 Stagecoach in Tees Valley 72%

31 Go North East 69%

Satisfaction with bus driver overall by operator

Stagecoach in Tees Valley 87%

Go North East 86%

Arriva in County Durham 84%

Arriva in Tees Valley 83%