Despite partly recovering from a massive slump at the peak of the coronavirus pandemic, concerns had been raised about the ability of public transport to cope with the return of pupils to classrooms this in September.
But despite some pinch points across the network at peak times of day, transport chiefs have so far managed to deliver youngsters to the school gates ‘relatively trouble free’.
“[The return of schools] was presenting some difficulties in terms of the transport of pupils to school because of social distancing,” said Tobyn Hughes, managing director of Transport North East.
“Particularly on the bus network there was concern there would be insufficient space in the morning and afternoon.
“The government made emergency support available to provide duplicate bus services and I am pleased to say an additional 130 school buses were put on across the area, which has meant the return to school, from a transport perspective, has been relatively trouble free.”
Me Hughes, who is also managing director of Metro operator Nexus, was speaking at a meeting of the North East Joint Transport Committee, which was held by videolink and broadcast via YouTube.
Bus use has fared slightly better, currency standing at between 55 – 62%, depending on the part of the North East and the bus operator.
While the government has capped emergency financial support for the Metro at the end of October – something bosses hope to renegotiate – help for bus operators is set to continue, with ministers agreeing to give 10 weeks notice when they intend to terminate the lifeline.
Mr Hughes added while space remains available on most buses throughout most of the day, limits on capacity due to social distancing mean there are times when ‘buses cannot take any more passengers’.
At a previous meeting on transport, chiefs said Metro services faced being cut over the winter due a shortage of drivers, though it was hoped the fruits of a recruitment drive would see the problem eliminated in future.