Short­age of bus driv­ers to blame for prob­lems

Western Daily Press (Saturday) - - News - TRIS­TAN CORK news@west­erndai­ly­

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.

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