NORTHEAST bus passengers have been promised faster, cheaper, and more reliable services after confirmation of a further £45m of Government funding for improvements.

While fears over impending cuts to routes across the region linger in the background, transport bosses are hoping to attract more people onto buses with measures including reduced fares, a new app and website, and a simplified ticketing system.

The Department for Transport (DfT) today confirmed that it will now issue a further £45.6m towards the Northeast’s Bus Service Improvement Plan (BSIP) – which is the final piece of a total £163.5m allocation for Tyne and Wear, Northumberland and County Durham that was originally announced in April 2022.

The first tranche of BSIP money has already been used to launch a £1 bus fare for under-22s, while there are plans to soon roll out a collection of new adult day tickets giving unlimited travel on all buses, Metro trains, and the Shields Ferry for no more than £6.80.

But while the money was meant to be used to fund transformational upgrades to the public transport system, officials have recently been forced to set aside millions for a rescue package to simply stop private bus companies slashing services.

There have been fears for months that operators will soon cut their mileage by between 10 and 20 per cent, with passenger numbers still below pre-Covid levels and Government support funding about to be reduced.

Following Friday’s DfT announcement, Transport North East managing director Tobyn Hughes said: “This funding is essential to continue the task of improving bus services in the region through our Enhanced Partnership with the local bus operators. We have already radically lowered bus fares for young people across the region – an initiative which is proving to be incredibly popular – and we will shortly be turning our attention to day tickets for unlimited travel by bus, Metro and Ferry.  

“We will also be investing in measures to speed up bus journeys on busy roads and junctions, making bus travel more reliable. More investments in a range of improvements will follow, including some enhancements to the bus network itself.

“The bus industry is going through some tough times at present and so we welcome the ability to use this government funding to provide a much-needed boost to bus services in the region.”

The Northeast Joint Transport Committee last week agreed to spend up to £12.2m of its BSIP funding to protect bus services at risk of being cut.

But leaders also packed plans to pay for free bus travel for young people leaving care and to spend around £400,000 on a new public transport website and app to provide better information for passengers.

Roads minister Richard Holden said: “Tens of thousands of people across Tyne and Wear, Northumberland and County Durham rely on the bus to get around every day. That’s why we’re confirming over £45 million to improve local bus services and help build the modern, reliable and affordable bus network all residents in the North East deserve.

“We’ve now invested more than £3.5 billion since 2020 to protect bus routes in England outside London and help people ‘Get Around for £2’ as we leave no stone unturned to level up transport, help people save money on travel, and grow the economy.”