Passengers take on bus bosses after firm axes service through Houghton and Sunderland

Councillors Colin Wakefield and Derrick Smith, left, with Joyce Dixon, Bill Husband, Derek Hampton and John Ritchie at the redundant bus stop in Newbottle.
Councillors Colin Wakefield and Derrick Smith, left, with Joyce Dixon, Bill Husband, Derek Hampton and John Ritchie at the redundant bus stop in Newbottle.
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FED-UP bus users say they are unable to get about after the withdrawal of a popular service.

Transport firm Go North East changed the No71 bus from Chester-le-Street to Sunderland route, which went via Houghton, Grasswell and Newbottle, earlier this year.

The revised route is now to Houghton only, leaving Grasswell and Newbottle, High Lane in particular, without a service to Sunderland.

It now means that no buses pass the stop outside Newbottle Workingmen’s Club.

Councillors Colin Wakefield and Derrick Smith, who represent Copt Hill ward, have gathered more than 500 signatures for a petition calling on the organisation to re-route, alternating the No20 bus, which travels between Durham and Sunderland, through Newbottle so that people living there can still access the service.

They say that if every other No20 went through Newbottle and through High Lane before rejoining the A690, the situation would be improved.

At present, the No20 goes through Houghton before joining the A690 and going up Houghton Cut.

Transport bosses though, say that to do this would mean scheduling an extra vehicle costing £140,000 a year.

Pensioner Joyce Dixon is backing the councillors’ calls.

“The people of Grasswell can’t get about right now,” said the 88-year-old, of Cathedral View.

“At the minute, if you live in High Lane and use the bus, you have to pay an extra £1.45 to get into Houghton and get another bus from there.”

Coun Wakefield said: “Some 527 people are in support of us already on this.

“The bus stop was just painted last week – I don’t know why though when there are no buses coming past it.

“All we are asking for now is alternatives.

“It seems logical to do this and it will pick up passengers, which, after all, is the whole point of a bus.”

A spokesman for Go North East said: “Grasswell and Newbottle are served by ‘Red Arrows’ service X1, giving a bus every 10 minutes to Houghton, where connections can be made onto the 20/20A services to Sunderland also operating every 10 minutes.

“X1 also serves Washington Galleries, Newcastle and Hetton.

“The number of passengers using the old 71 to travel to Sunderland from Grasswell and Newbottle was only 33 per day – each way –while over 1,395 passengers per day would be affected by the longer journey time on service 20 if it diverted via Grasswell.

“Service 20 would also need an extra vehicle adding to the schedule at a cost of about £140,000 per year.

“Buses would no longer operate on an even frequency with service 20A between Sunderland and Houghton-le-Spring and East Rainton and Durham, meaning that 2,702 passengers per day would suffer from a reduced service.”