Regional bus giant Go North East is driving ahead with 1970s music favourites The Drifters to launch its new £14m bus fleet.
The Gateshead-based bus company has invested in 100 new vehicles to celebrate its 100th year. The soul singers, famous for a string of worldwide hits, joined Longbenton Community College Choir to belt out some Christmas songs on board a new Drifter bus.
The event marked the investment Go North East has spent on improving its services by upgrading its fleet in its centenary year.
The sing-along took place outside The Sage Gateshead ahead of The Drifters’ 60th anniversary Diamond Dynasty Tour concert.
The new vehicles will be used on eight of its most popular services, including the Drifter which runs from Seaham to Sunderland. The new buses are part of a continuing programme of investment to ensure Go North East’s fleet is as modern and efficient as possible.
The new vehicles will run on its Connections 4, Drifter, CityLink, Saltwell Park, Venture, Fab 56, Cobalt Clipper and TEN services.
The 41routes will also benefit from the new vehicles thanks to a strategy whereby the newest buses are cascaded down to refresh the whole fleet and remove the oldest vehicles from service.
Most of the new buses have free WiFi and audio visual next stop announcements.
Managing director at Go North East Kevin Carr said: “When we heard The Drifters were in town we thought there couldn’t be a better way to launch our new Drifter buses than a bus sing along with the buses’ namesake group.
“We were delighted when The Drifters agreed to do it. To ensure optimum efficiency and the best quality of service for our customers, we have committed significant investment to continually modernise our fleet. We know that our customers want modern vehicles and that they also appreciate having buses that are branded by route so that they can be easily identified.”
Go North East started 100 years ago with a small number of buses and is now the largest bus operator in the North East, with a fleet of 670 buses and more than 2,000 staff.
It carries more than 72m people every year across Tyne and Wear, County Durham, Northumberland and Teesside.
The bus operator has also recently rebranded many of its routes.
For example, the firm’s Metrolink (M1) service which links the south-east of Washington with Newcastle has been renamed Connections 4.
This followed an upsurge in passenger numbers as a result of merging several different routes into one high frequency service.
An investment of £1.76m has replaced the Scania L94 buses on the route – which were 11 years old with new Mercedes Citaro single decks.