Reports of North Tees staff walking, often late at night, to Norton and further afield rather than waiting over an hour for a bus home have led Stockton North MP Alex Cunningham to repeat calls for the Tees Valley Mayor to use the 2017 Buse Act and take control of public transport.
Changes were made to the 36, 37 and 38 Stagecoach services in November, with these buses now going to three locations at Teesside Park throughout the day. As a result the 37 bus which served the link between North Tees Hospital and Norton with a half hourly service has been reduced to an hourly one. While the 59 service has been expanded to cover North Tees this does not serve Norton.
There appears to have been no discussion between the Tees Valley Combined Authority, Stagecoach and North Tees Hospital about these changes and the impact they might have on staff and patients getting to and from the hospital.
Powers to regulate public transport with control over fares and routes through the 2017 Buses Act – an act that been utilised by the Mayor of Greater Manchester with other Combined Authorities following suit – are available to the Tees Valley Mayor who has so far proved unwilling use them. Instead Tees Flex, a “demand responsive transport” service, was launched in 2020. The on-demand bus service, which is managed by Stagecoach, runs between 7am and 8pm, Monday to Saturday.
“Buses serving Teesside Park are a welcome, if long overdue, addition and I know lots of people are happy with these new stops, but it is absurd to bring these in at the expense of services to North Tees Hospital.
“That there appears to have been no consultation with hospital management about timetabling is disappointing and it is incredibly worrying to hear that staff are being left in a position to either walk home in the dead of night or wait potentially for over an hour for the next bus.
“For too long our communities have had to put up with sub-par bus services and gimmicky, quick-fixes in the guise of Tees Flex. It’s time the Tees Valley Mayor used the powers available to him through the 2017 Bus Act to take control of local buses and run them for local people, not private profit.”