Firm has 'no plans' to send more buses to transport hub

BUS giant Stagecoach says it has "no plans" to re-route any more services to Hartlepool's new £4m transport hub.

The interchange opened in August and was built to transform the public transport system in the town.

Bus firm Arriva operates eight daily services through the interchange at regular intervals throughout the day, while Tees Valley Coach Travel runs one.

Stagecoach, the town's main public transport provider, operates 52 services per hour in and out of Hartlepool town centre.

But just a small number use the interchange and only on an evening and on Sunday.

Bosses say they have no plans to re-route more services at this time and council chiefs say negotiations are still ongoing, even though the interchange was eight years in the planning.

Last week Stagecoach also threatened to pull night-time services across the town if proposals by a cash-strapped council to withdraw subsidies due to budget cuts go ahead.

Robin Knight, commercial director for Stagecoach North East said: "Since the Hartlepool transport interchange was proposed and subsequently introduced we have worked closely with the council to evaluate a number of issues surrounding the accessibility of the interchange.

"Our discussions with council officers are ongoing and as such we currently have no plans to divert services into the interchange."

The facility, on the eastern side of the Marina Gateway Bridge, opened in the summer, complete with a coach transfer area, taxi ranks, cycle links, parking for commuters and a car drop-off area.

The interchange also has bus stands and pedestrian links to Hartlepool town centre.

Town transport chiefs say the main focus of the interchange was always the railway station, which was used by almost 395,000 passengers between April and December last year.

And they say the interchange has achieved its "key aim" of improving the travel experience of people arriving in, or leaving Hartlepool.

A Hartlepool Borough Council spokesman said: "The main focus of the transport interchange is the railway station and, in conjunction with the improvements to the station itself, the interchange has substantially improved facilities for the many hundreds of people arriving in Hartlepool by rail each day, from both a practical and a visual point of view.

"For the period April to December 2010 the station was used by almost 395,000 passengers.

"In terms of bus operators, the interchange is used by Arriva, Tees Valley Coach Travel, Stagecoach Services 4a and 518 and Hartlepool Council Service 980 as well as by coach operator National Express and we are in talks with other transport operators interested in using the facility.

"We also remain in discussions with Stagecoach and we hope that the many attractions of the new facility, including its safe pedestrian links to the town centre and marina, will lead Stagecoach to look again at the possibility of some of its other services using the interchange.

"The interchange's taxi rank is well used by taxi firms in the town, which make regular drop-offs and pick-ups of people using the station, and an increasing number of people are using the commuter parking facilities.

"The transport interchange has achieved the key aim of improving the travel experience for people arriving in, or leaving, Hartlepool."

Hartlepool Mayor Stuart Drummond also remains confident the interchange will be a success.

Mayor Drummond said: "Gradually, over time, the idea is to make this the hub to all kinds of transport, but it is not going to happen overnight.

"I think you always need more people to use it. It is a slow process.

"It is not just about buses, it is all kinds of transport – trains, taxis and coaches, and I think all the coach companies are using it."

The interchange was funded by cash from the Local Transport Fund.