Transport bosses have outlined new bus route plans being enforced as part of the £100m redevelopment of South Shields town centre.
They insist changes that will see bus-stops removed from the market place and outside St Hilda’s church opposite, will lead to a “better connected” travel zone.
Traffic managers at South Tyneside Council and bus operator Stagecoach North East say they have cooperated fully over the South Shields 365 masterplan.
Its centrepiece is a new rail and bus hub in the Keppel Street area which is designed to encourage economic growth by boosting ease of commute.
The project also includes pedestrianising a stretch of road which cuts between the market place and St Hilda’s.
But critics fear shoppers and tourists will find it more difficult to access the market place – including The Word library – and the ferry landing beyond.
They include retired electrician Derek Stokes, 82, of Highfield Road, South Shields, who relies on public transport after recently giving up driving.
He said: “I’m concerned that there will be no buses from the new interchange to the market place.
“At the moment, I can get the bus all the way to the market place, I can get off right outside which is very handy for getting to the library.
“When this area is pedestrianised all that will change, which I personally think is a mistake.
“It will make it a lot harder for people of my age to get to the market and to the ferry.”
Many buses going east to west across South Shields travel into Coronation Street and use new and existing stops outside Asda.
Others run parallel to Coronation Street along Chapter Row towards the market place, stopping on both sides of the road.
Under the 365 scheme, buses will be stopped from using Chapter Row, with all detouring into Coronation Street.
It is then up to bus operators as to which route they take out of or back into the town centre.
South Tyneside Council said it had worked closely with bus operators on route changes.
A spokeswoman added: “Once the new transport interchange is open, buses heading west will stop on Coronation Street. The bus stops on Chapter Row will be removed.
“As part of the retail and leisure phase, the area between St Hilda’s Church and The Word will be pedestrianised, as set out in the 365 masterplan.”
Stagecoach North East said the closure of Chapter Row would require buses to operate westbound only along Coronation Street.
David Parker, Head of Commercial, said the company’s views had been fully stated at the planning stage.
He added: “We support the overall town centre redevelopment for the vital boost it will offer to the local economy.
“We continue to work closely with South Tyneside Council to develop and refine the details of their master plan.”