A row has broken out over changes to bus services in Sunderland city centre.
A senior councillor has accused Stagecoach of ignoring the needs of travellers by deciding to terminate several services - including the E1 and E2 - at John Street instead of the Park Lane Transport Interchange.
But the bus firm insists the decision was taken to improve reliability of services and minimise delays.
Coun Michael Mordey, the city council’s Portfolio Holder for City Services and a member of the North East Combined Authority Transport Committee, said: “Earlier this year, the council expressed its displeasure and opposition to Stagecoach’s proposed service changes between Sunderland and South Shields,” he said.
“These changes, which have now been introduced, are a major inconvenience for customers using the E1, E2 and E6 services.
“As these services are now terminating in John Street, they are no longer using the city’s Park Lane interchange from where customers can easily pick up other buses or indeed transfer to the Metro.
Since announcing the change to our service from Park Lane, we have had more meaningful discussions with council officers in how they are going to improve bus traffic flow through these areas.Steve Walker
“It is a major problem in particular for customers making their way for appointments and visits to Sunderland Royal Hospital, and other areas in the west of our city.
“It also means a more difficult journey for Sunderland residents wanting to visit the beaches at Roker and Seaburn.
“Bus customers from not only Shields but also from the Seaburn, Fulwell and Roker areas are being inconvenienced by these changes.
“The Park Lane interchange has the facilities for both buses and their passengers and allows customers to transfer easily, and connect easily with other services.
“The council has received representations from the travelling public and, on their behalf, it is expressing these concerns and dissatisfaction to the directors of Stagecoach.
“It has also been noted that branded buses from these routes were observed in Teesside in the days immediately following the change, making a mockery of the claims by Stagecoach that these changes were made to improve reliability – it is clear they were as always driven by profits.
“While the council expresses its displeasure, I would also remind customers to either contact Stagecoach or their ward councillor about these matters so we can all work together and remind Stagecoach of its duty to offer all customers a convenient and accessible service – they should put passengers before profit.”
But Stagecoach North East managing director Steve Walker said: “We know our customers want reliable services and we work hard every day to deliver that in the face of ever increasing traffic congestion.
“The removal of the service from Park Lane Interchange was to improve reliability for our passengers and to manage more effectively the delays our services experience in Whitburn and Seaburn.
“We have outlined to the council on numerous occasions the impact these delays are having on our customers; however, no action has ever been taken.
“Since announcing the change to our service from Park Lane, we have had more meaningful discussions with council officers in how they are going to improve bus traffic flow through these areas.
“We have committed to restoring a link to Park Lane should they manage to resolve the road traffic situation.
“Coun Mordey has raised a number of red herrings. Links from the “E” services to the hospital and beyond still exist through a change in Fawcett Street.
“Similarly, local Sunderland residents can continue to travel to Roker Park and the seaside via John Street.
“We have moved buses around our fleet, including in Teesside, for no other reason than to better reflect demand for our services.”