GO North East will make travel on its buses free for seven days, after the end of a crippling strike that has caused weeks of transport chaos.

It was announced on Friday morning that members of the Unite union had narrowly voted to accept an 11.2 per cent pay rise offer and end their indefinite strike.

Around 1,300 drivers, engineers, and other staff at the major public transport operator have staged a continuous walkout for the past five weeks that has shut down the vast majority of Go North East services across the region.

In a bid to bring back passengers and restore public trust in routes that have been shut down for weeks, the operator has now confirmed that it will waive its usual fares for single and day tickets for a full seven days now that the industrial action has ended.

The offer will apply across the company’s entire network and runs from the restart of services on Saturday, December 2 until the end of Friday, December 8.

Ben Maxfield, business director of Go North East, said: “We’re delighted to be resuming a full timetable of bus services from Saturday. We know that the last month has been difficult and disruptive for local communities. Free travel for a week is a gesture from us to welcome customers back on board.

“The strike over the last month has hit people and businesses in the pocket. I’m sorry for the inconvenience and distress that it caused. We now want to put it behind us and get back to delivering the best possible bus service for all our customers.”

Customers who usually pay for journeys using the Go North East app should use a gift code, found on the company’s website, to access a free ticket.

Those who usually pay on board the bus will still be issued with a ticket, but need not pay.

Longer-term season tickets will not be covered by the offer.

Gateshead Council leader Martin Gannon welcomed the free travel offer and urged passengers to “get back on the bus without delay”, despite the deep anger being felt among many as a result of the strikes.

He added: “Go North East’s failure to provide bus services during the strike period will have undoubtedly caused lasting damage to people's confidence in using buses, and the impact will be profound, worsening the long-term decline in bus use which was accelerated during the pandemic.

 “I sincerely hope that the operator now looks closely at how to regain the trust of the public. I have long held the view that the current commercial bus system – which removed the ability of local councils to regulate or control bus services – is wrong and works against the needs and wants of local communities and passengers.