Tees Valley Mayor extends ‘lifeline’ transport contract

Written by on 21st February 2023

Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen has today announced an 18 month extension for the Tees Flex bus service.

Tees Flex, operated by Stagecoach, connects the areas of Hartlepool, Redcar and Cleveland and Darlington to local hospitals, schools and seafronts through an on demand bus service.

Confirming the news, Mr Houchen said: “Delighted to say I have taken the decision to extend the Tees Flex’s contract for another 18 months.”

He added: “A lifeline to many. It’s great to confirm our blue buses are here to stay.”

First introduced in February 2020 under a pilot scheme, the app operated service was due to cease on February 24, pending a decision by the Tees Valley Combined Authority.

Mayor Houchen said: “Completely unbeknown to us at the time, we launched the pilot at the worst possible time due to the Covid pandemic, and yet we still saw a significant amount of demand for the service. Having looked at the data I think it is the sensible decision to extend this trial so that we can see the true potential of demand responsive travel.”

Tees Flex was set up with the purpose of connecting rural communities with more economic centres, giving access to jobs and local amenities.

But, locals were previously quick to discuss the decision of closure on Twitter, previously admitting the links are vital for work and leisure commutes.

One user said: “My driver this morning told me it’s sadly coming to an end Feb 24th. I use the Tees Flex service to travel to and from work.”

However, others have questioned the supposed lack of use of the service as a whole.

One Twitter user said: “I have never seen a passenger on a Tees Flex bus.”

Stockton North MP Alex Cunningham has been particularly vocal on the matter, having stated in January that the Mayor has blocked him on social media.

Mr Cunningham, Shadow Justice Secretary for Courts and Sentencing, has now hit out at Mayor Houchen on Twitter regarding the news of the contracts extension.

He said: “Good news that he has been forced to back down – though you and I both know its just 18 months cynically till after both this year’s council elections and the mayoral ones in 2024.”

He added: “We need a proper integrated regulated local transport system but he’s failed on that too.

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