Operator Go North East is preparing for a major overhaul of its routes following a fall in passenger numbers caused by the coronavirus pandemic
It is feared the move could hit links with vital services including schools, colleges, hospitals and other employment sites.
And it has prompted Nexus, which oversees public transport in the region, including operating the Tyne and Wear Metro, to step in with a £4.3 million cash injection to soften the blow to those who rely on the services.
“Unfortunately bus ridership is still way below pre-pandemic levels and with government Covid-19 funding support due to end in October, the operators are making cuts in response,” said Martin Gannon, leader of Gateshead Council and chair of the North East Joint Transport Committee (JTC).
“It is great news that Nexus is able to step in and make sure that communities stay connected.
"We knew this was coming when we set last year’s transport budget at the North East JTC, and so we took the very difficult decision to increase council contributions to make sure that Nexus had a fighting fund it could use to safeguard as many services as possible.
“I fear that there may be more difficult choices ahead for bus operators and local authorities, but we remain committed to making sure that people who rely on the bus can keep vital local connections.”
Bus chiefs have previously warned timetable cuts were “likely”, as the government scaled back emergency funding introduced to prop the sector up during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Nexus has already stepped in to protect public transport routes in Newcastle and North Tyneside, confirming a package of measure in March.
Huw Lewis, Nexus’s customer services director, called the “rescue package” a “first step”, but also cautioned it would not be enough to preserve “like-for-like” replacements in every area affected.
Priority is expected to be given to routes serving major employment sites and key services, such as hospitals.
Changes are due to come into effect from Sunday, July 24 – visit the Nexus website for more information and to have your say.