MSP says bus drivers may be ‘overstaging’
Transport: First Bus vows to investigate any ‘ticket anomalies’
An Aberdeen MSP has claimed taxpayers could be footing the bill for an elaborate ticketing method used by bus chiefs.
Aberdeen Central SNP MSP Kevin Stewart said First Bus drivers may have been “overstaging” fares to claim more Scottish Government cash.
Overstaging is the practice where drivers add extra stages to pensioners’ journeys beyond their destination.
Bus firms apply for a subsidy from the government for everyone who is travelling with a free bus pass.
By adding extra stages, firms could theoretically claim back more than would have been the case on shorter trips.
Mr Stewart provided a number of bus tickets which were all sent to the terminus, despite the passenger claiming to have disembarked earlier.
He wrote to government body Transport Scotland who responded there “was found to be an element of overstaging” on each of the nine tickets provided.
Mr Stewart has now questioned First’s information about passenger numbers and pointed to whether the evening bus services to Ferryhill should have been cut last year.
First Bus responded last night by confirming they would “urgently” investigate the allegations.
Mr Stewart said: “Let’s not beat about the bush – First Bus may have cost the taxpayer very dearly and slashed bus services based on these allegedly false tickets.
“Ferryhill evening services were slashed because of supposed low passenger numbers, but this new evidence brings this argument into question – were there really many, many more passengers on these services than First Bus had recorded?
“First Bus has a history of poor delivery for the people of Aberdeen, the city in which the company was born, with key services cut time and time again.
“The powers that be must re-establish Ferryhill evening services and review all of its closed services as a result of this potentially damning evidence.”
A Transport Scotland spokeswoman said: “Transport Scotland has robust measures in place to ensure bus operators are reimbursed correctly and, generally, the vast majority issue tickets in compliance with the national concessionary travel scheme. We are aware of a very small number of incidences of overstaging on First Bus services and we are working with the operator to establish if this is a driver training issue, related to recent changes to their fare stage structure.
“Once we have established the cause, we will be able to decide what needs to be done.”
A First Bus spokesman said: “We will be investigating urgently this allegation regarding a small number of ticket anomalies and thank Mr Stewart for bringing this to our attention.”
“First Bus may have cost the taxpayer very dearly”