THE North-East faces the prospect of more travel misery a week after the fuel blockade nearly brought the region to a standstill.

Bus drivers and depot engineers are voting today on whether to accept an improved pay offer at Go North-East.

The 600 employees of the Go Northern and Go Gateshead divisions have rejected "derisory" increases and voted for industrial action.

If the drivers dismiss the offers, they will stage a series of one-day strikes on Fridays, starting next week.

Go Northern runs almost all the buses in the Consett, Stanley and Chester-le-Street areas of County Durham and operates part of the regional service between Darlington and Newcastle.

The drivers, members of the Transport and General Workers Union, are being recommended to accept the revised offers.

But Alan Gray, the union's regional transport organiser, said: "The feedback I am getting is that they are more likely to reject them.

"A bus driver on a high rate is taking home between £150 and £160 a week. I would imagine Metro train drivers get double that.

"Some of the shop stewards who are negotiating with me are claiming Family Credit to top up their wages."

The Gateshead drivers were initially offered 2.5 per cent and their Northern colleagues were offered 2.4 per cent.

Mr Gray declined to give details of the revised offers but said drivers were unhappy.

He said that the firm had threatened a ban on overtime if the strike went ahead.

Mr Gray said: "Overtime is essential because of the lack of staff. Nobody is coming into the bus industry because of the attack on the conditions of our members.

"It won't be the fault of bus drivers if buses aren't running on days other than the days of the action."

No one was available for comment at the company's Gateshead headquarters.

l Four Friday stoppages by 800 Arriva drivers across the region and ended last month when they voted for a 3.5 per cent rise with a 4.5 per cent increase next year.

The deal was brokered by the Arbitration and Conciliation Service after they rejected 3.1 per cent and 2 per cent linked to performance next year