HEALTH bosses have agreed a donation towards restoring a Sunday bus service between Consett and Durham which was axed following cut-backs by Durham County Council.
The one-off grant of £2,500 will help to restore a limited Sunday service on the 13-mile journey between Consett and Durham via Lanchester and Witton Gilbert following complaints that non-car owners could no longer visit relatives or friends in the University Hospital of North Durham.
The Go North East number 15 service was axed last year after Durham County Council stopped subsidising Sunday services in a bid to make more than £1m in savings.
Health workers also complained the axing of Sunday services made it difficult for them to travel to work, and one non-driving police officer, PCSO Vanessa Gray, said she feared she may have to give up her job pounding the beat in Lanchester.
Yesterday Durham County Councillor Owen Temple, a Liberal Democrat representing Consett, said he and fellow county councillors Watts Stelling, Duncan Barnett, Alan Shield and Stephen Robinson had agreed to use part of their allowances towards funding a Sunday service.
Coun Temple added: “This week the NHS has come on board in a three-way partnership with local councillors and Go North East to bring a return of Sunday buses between Consett and Durham.
“The service will provide public transport access to their local hospital to the people of Consett and Lanchester each Sunday, as well as shopping opportunities and access to rail services on the East Coast Main Line at Durham.
“I have been working for months to reach the point where a number of local councillors and the NHS would enable the buses to run again. We were simply delighted when the University Hospital of North Durham and Primary Care Trust agreed to throw their weight behind the scheme with a one-off grant.”
Coun Temple warned, however, that passengers must use the bus to prove it is needed.
He said: “We know that this is a one-off opportunity. The scheme has to become financially self-supporting over the next two years because there will be no ongoing subsidy, but all the partners agree that if local people support the service and use it in numbers the Sunday service to Durham has a future. With enough users, Go North East will want to run it as a profitable service. My message to local people is: use your bus or lose it.”
A spokesperson for County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust said: “County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust, in partnership with NHS County Durham and Darlington, has donated £2,500 over two years towards the bus service.”
Last month North West Durham MP Pat Glass announced that a deal had been brokered to re-introduce late Friday and Saturday evening buses from Durham to Consett, passing through Lanchester and Witton Gilbert, from late February after county councillors Ossie Johnson and Richard Young each pledged £1,235 from their council allocated neighbourhood funds to subsidise the buses, which are due to begin operating again in February.