REINSTATED bus services brought back into use due to public demand are in danger of being withdrawn again due to a lack of users.
Stagecoach North East relaunched the half-hourly number 1 High Tunstall to Middlesbrough Sunday service and the half-hourly number 7 Owton Manor to Middlegate route on Sunday evenings and weekday evenings for a trial period.
The services, which were re-launched last November, had been lost after the withdrawal of a £287,000 Hartlepool Borough Council subsidy for a number of evening and weekend bus services due to budget pressures and Stagecoach bosses saying some routes weren’t commercially viable.
Following pressure from various groups, Stagecoach bosses re-instated the routes. But bosses, along with Hartlepool Borough Council chiefs warned “use it or lose it”.
But three months on and halfway into the trial period, transport firm bosses say only half of the extra journeys have “promising” passenger numbers and those not doing well are in danger of being dropped unless the take-up improves.
The first and last Sunday journeys on route 1 are poorly used, as well as journeys after 10pm on the 7, with fewer than three people on some journeys.
The company warns that these services will not continue after the trial, unless there is an increase in customers in the coming weeks.
Hartlepool Mayor Stuart Drummond said: “When the services were reinstated there was a very clear message from everybody that you had to ‘use it or lose it’.
“I think it’s good of Stagecoach to issue this warning that usage numbers aren’t as good as they had hoped on some routes.
“If they do decide to pull them in the future people really can’t complain. They need to get out and start using the buses.
“I would echo their warning that we will lose the services if patronage doesn’t increase.”
There is some good news, an average of 10 or more people per journey are using the 7 between 7pm-8pm.
But Stagecoach say journeys between 8.30pm-9.30pm are “borderline”, with some days better than others, though numbers are currently at the preferable level. Stagecoach North-East managing director, Phil Medlicott, said generally, the trial has been successful. The firm is optimistic about the figures with the public “embracing” some of the new services.
But he warned: “We’re only half way through the trial so we would urge those who originally wanted the services to use those that are currently less popular, or risk losing them for good.
“Our minds definitely aren’t made up and we hope to see the passenger numbers on the later services increase so we can continue running them.”
Councillor Peter Jackson, who has campaigned hard for the services to be re-introduced along with fellow Headland and Harbour ward councillors Jim Ainslie and Robbie Payne, said: “Since these services were re-introduced last November the take-up has been reasonable, but every effort must be made to increase passenger numbers further.
“The message to townspeople is very clear – ‘use it or lose it’ – and I do urge local people to support these services.”