Shortage of bus drivers to blame for problems
PROBLEMS, cancellations and delays on Bristol’s buses will continue for another ‘few weeks’ as First Bus grapples with a driver shortage that has left passengers frustrated and fuming.
Passengers from Brislington to Patchway have complained about buses being late, overcrowded or not turning up at all for around a month, as a number of factors combined to leave First struggling to transport everyone where they wanted to go.
First blamed the return of tens of thousands of students to the city’s two main universities for filling up the buses, and the return to the school run by even more parents for filling up the roads.
That’s something that happens every year, and First said normally it can cope with it, but the September rush has also combined with the closure more recently of Bristol Parkway station.
This means that not only are there more people trying to get around by bus in north Bristol, but also a huge increase in the number of cars on the road too.
And, perhaps most crucially for First’s efforts to meet the rising demand, it has struggled with a short- age of bus drivers.
Some key bus routes, including the 75 and 76 from South Bristol, the 19 service from Kingswood to Bath, the 376 Mendip Explorer and the U1 and U2 services from UWE, have seen significant overcrowding, people left at bus stops and buses late or cancelled.
On Thursday, First announced that the 376 bus, which goes from Street, Glastonbury and Wells into Bristol, would not even run at all for four hours during the morning.
However, some passengers have reported that some buses were in fact running.
First’s West of England boss James Freeman said things were gradually getting better, but couldn’t be sorted out overnight.
“The fact is we don’t have enough bus drivers,” he said.
“We’re getting drivers in from other places to drive our buses and get the buses on the road.
“That isn’t something that happens overnight, but we are way ahead of what we were a couple of weeks ago,” he added.