Plans to overhaul bus travel in the North East have been hailed as life-changing for young people living in rural communities.
Under new plans, single tickets for under-22s would be priced at £1 while a region-wide day ticket would be just £3 for the same age bracket.
The proposed changes come after the government awarded the North East £163.5m to enhance bus travel across the region, with Northumberland’s share of the money also to be used to improve services.
Speaking at Tuesday’s meeting of Northumberland County Council’s cabinet, leader Glen Sanderson said he hoped more people would be persuaded to use bus travel on a regular basis.
He said: “This regional sum of money is basically to encourage people to get on the bus and use them more. The way to do that is to make sure that the funding lasts for long enough to make people feel that this is something worth changing.
“People need to know that the bus will take them to work or school and it will be in service for a good period of time.
“It is also about encouraging rural bus transport which is very important for us as a county. You can see how attractive those bus fares are.
“We will see a difference. We have to encourage car users to see how an improved bus service will make life much better, particularly for people in rural areas.”
Coun Sanderson added that the plans contained proposals for new bus lanes in Cramlington and Blyth, but that these were just ideas at this stage and would need to be discussed in more detail in the future.
Coun Guy Renner Thompson, who represents the rural Bamburgh ward in the north of the county, said the proposals would have a “huge impact”.
He said: “I would like to reiterate how it will change people’s lives in rural areas. For a child in my area to get the bus to Newcastle it’s £5 or £6 for a return, whereas under this scheme it is £1 each way.
“It will allow young people to access services that they can’t necessarily get in their own communities. It’s going to have a huge impact on young people in rural and urban areas.”
The cabinet agreed to approve the creation of a Northumberland Local Bus Board, which would allow representatives from across the county to meet with officers and bus operators to discuss the network and any looming changes. Members also agreed to delegate the authority to accept the funding for bus service improvements from Transport North East to the council’s finance chief, once the funding has been confirmed.
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