Cin­derella ser­vice Bus is­sues are no sur­prise - driver

Gloucestershire Echo - - NEWS - Janet HUGHES [email protected]­plc.com

ABUS driver claims he is “not sur­prised” about a re­cent ve­hi­cle fire in Glouces­ter­shire and has raised nu­mer­ous con­cerns about parts of the ser­vice.

The driver, a cur­rent em­ployee who does not want to be iden­ti­fied, came for­ward with a num­ber of al­le­ga­tions fol­low­ing a re­cent bus fire in Mitcheldea­n.

He said there are many prob­lems across the county’s bus ser­vices, but claimed the For­est of Dean is the Cin­derella of them all.

Stage­coach, how­ever, hit back at his claims and said their safety mea­sures are a “top pri­or­ity” and that buses are main­tained to a “very high stan­dard through a ro­bust regime that goes be­yond what is re­quired by law”.

The long-serv­ing em­ployee claims the com­pany does not have enough driv­ers and ve­hi­cles and that is why re­cent timetable changes were needed.

Stage­coach said the changes were brought in to help im­prove links in more iso­lated ar­eas like Ruardean and White­croft.

The driver went on to say he has con­cerns about the re­li­a­bil­ity of some of the com­pany’s buses and doesn’t be­lieve they are al­ways be­ing main­tained to a high enough stan­dard.

”Ba­si­cally, Chel­tenham get all the new buses, Glouces­ter get Chel­tenham’s cast-offs and the For­est of Dean get the cast-off cast-offs,” the driver said.

He blames an “age­ing fleet” for how buses “of­ten strug­gle” on the for­est’s hills and claimed that col­leagues at the Milk­wall garage in the For­est of Dean only get five min­utes to carry out safety checks on their ve­hi­cles ev­ery morn­ing, com­pared to eight min­utes in other de­pots lo­cally.

This is de­spite Milk­wall be­ing such a tight squeeze that driv­ers have to re­verse the buses out be­fore check­ing them, he said.

Stage­coach re­sponded to this by say­ing there is “no ma­te­rial dif­fer­ence” in the age of its ve­hi­cles and how they are main­tained in dif­fer­ent ar­eas.

The driver claimed Stage­coach strug­gles to re­cruit enough driv­ers be­cause it op­er­ates split shifts and “doesn’t pay enough”. He re­vealed a rota which he said showed how driv­ers are of­ten on duty for longer than they are paid.

“We only get paid for the time we are be­hind the steer­ing wheel so we have a lot of shifts when we are on duty for much longer than we are paid for,” claimed the driver.

“For in­stance one duty is from 6.22am in the morn­ing un­til 7.05pm at night, but the driv­ers only get paid for nine hours 22 min­utes.

“They can­not keep staff be­cause other com­pa­nies pay from the start to the fin­ish of the shift.”

On top of this, he said, For­est driv­ers are paid nearly £1 per hour less than col­leagues in Glouces­ter, who in turn earn less per hour than those in Chel­tenham and Swin­don.

And be­cause the staff turnover is so high the For­est ser­vice of­ten needs “on loan” driv­ers from other ar­eas who are paid more per hour and are given meal al­lowances of up to £25, al­leges the driver.

Stage­coach said it does its ut­most to make sure driv­ers have a good work/ life bal­ance and that dif­fer­ing pay rates are com­mon across the econ­omy be­cause of “all sorts of vari­ables”.

A spokesper­son for Stage­coach West said: “Safety is our ab­so­lute pri­or­ity and all of our ve­hi­cles are main­tained to a very high stan­dard. There is also no ma­te­rial dif­fer­ence in the age of ve­hi­cles or stan­dard of main­te­nance cri­te­ria for ve­hi­cles op­er­at­ing in For­est of Dean com­pared to rest of the Glouces­ter­shire net­work. “We do our ut­most to en­sure our driv­ers have a good work/life bal­ance by of­feringa va­ri­ety of work­ing pat­terns in­clud­ing five-day ro­tas, part­time hours and flex­i­ble work­ing op­tions.” The com­pany puts dif­fer­ing pay rates down to “dif­fer­ing work­ing op­tions, specifics of the lo­cal busi­ness op­er­a­tion, his­toric agree­ments and the lo­cal econ­omy within that area.”

But the driver added that the rest room in the For­est is “a dis­grace”, es­pe­cially com­pared to the staff fa­cil­i­ties at the new bus sta­tion in Glouces­ter.

He claimed the new timetable is about ad­dress­ing Stage­coach’s “fail­ings” rather than what peo­ple want.

He said: “They [Stage­coach] fears peo­ple will stop us­ing the 31 Cole­ford to Glouces­ter [ser­vice] be­cause it takes longer and say some buses now drop off at the Quays when town cen­tre work­ers would pre­fer the bus sta­tion.”

Stage­coach replied: “Buses be­tween Cole­ford and Glouces­ter will run ei­ther as 22 or 23, tak­ing around 10 min­utes longer per trip to im­prove links from more iso­lated com­mu­ni­ties in­clud­ing Ruardean and White­croft.

“The new times are more gen­er­ous to re­duce the risk of late run­ning and to fac­tor in wors­en­ing peak-time traf­fic con­ges­tion around Glouces­ter.” The com­pany said the city was ex­pe­ri­enc­ing ma­jor growth and it was ex­pand­ing its net­work.

“We are car­ry­ing out a com­pre­hen­sive train­ing pro­gramme to get our new driv­ers all trained,” it added. “And, in the mean­time, we are try­ing to se­cure ad­di­tional driv­ers for neigh­bour­ing de­pots to en­sure we can con­tinue to of­fer pas­sen­gers the best ser­vice.”

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