Anger over £60,000 bus lay-by plans

Site of the proposed new lay-by
Site of the proposed new lay-by

A SENIOR councillor has slammed proposals to spend £60,000 on a new bus lay-by at the request of a bus operator.

Stagecoach has asked Hartlepool Borough Council to install a new lay-by in the town’s Hart Lane in a bid to improve the efficiency of some services which face delays because busses have to use a turning point behind the shopping parade at Throston to drop passengers off.

The council has stressed no final decision has yet been made.

But Conservative group leader Ray Wells said he finds it “abhorrent” to consider spending £60,000 to help a bus company that has “turned its back on the town”, in reference to the lack of buses in Hartlepool after 6pm and some services being axed.

Stagecoach says the reduction in service was down to the council cutting funding.

A council spokesman said: “We have drawn up this proposal for a new bus lay-by in Hart Lane following a request from Stagecoach which feels that it would make its services faster and therefore more reliable by removing the need for some of its buses to turn into the existing terminus.

“No final decision has yet been made and the proposal is still the subject of ongoing consultation with residents and businesses in the surrounding area.

“If the proposal does proceed, the majority of the £60,000 cost of the work would be paid for by the Government through its Tees Valley Bus Network Improvement Scheme.

“The bus lay-by would not increase traffic flow along Hart Lane and the terminus would not be made redundant.

“It would still continue to be used by, for example, Stagecoach service 1 from Seaton to Throston and Arriva service 22 which runs to and from Durham.”

But Coun Wells said: “Considering that you can’t get a bus after 6pm on an evening I find it abhorrent to spend up to £60,000 on bus companies that have effectively turned their back on the people of Hartlepool.”

A spokesman for Stagecoach said: “Stagecoach has requested a new bus lay-by in Hart Lane to help improve punctuality for bus users in Hartlepool.

“Currently, there are regular delays on route three and turning into the terminus behind the shops adds to the journey time.

“Buses on route one will continue to use the existing terminus.

“The new lay-by is currently a proposal and we certainly hope that final approval is given for the scheme to go ahead.”

In 2011, village residents and pensioners in some parts of town were left stranded after bus companies axed daytime and evening services as a result of the council removing its £287,000 supported bus services funding.

The Stagecoach spokesman added: “In response to the councillor’s comments on the 2011 cuts to bus services in Hartlepool, we can confirm that we made no reductions to services run commercially in the region.

“The reductions to bus services in the area were part of a package of cuts by Hartlepool Borough Council.

“When routes or journeys do not carry enough passengers to cover their costs, the local authority must make tough decisions on those that they are able to pay for.

“They decided, at this time, that most of the journeys bus operators previously ran under contract to them could no longer operate.”