MSP says bus driv­ers may be ‘over­stag­ing’

Trans­port: First Bus vows to in­ves­ti­gate any ‘ticket anom­alies’

The Press and Journal (Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire) - - NEWS - BY JON HEBDITCH

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”

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