Driver shortage causing ‘meltdown’ of Warwickshire bus services
A chronic bus driver shortage is significantly hampering Warwickshire bus services, says a Warwickshire County Councillor.
Jonathan Chilvers, Green Party member and Councillor for Leamington Brunswick Ward, argues that bus services are “in meltdown” due to the shortage. He made these comments at a February meeting of the Warwickshire County Council Communities Overview and Scrutiny Committee meeting – which monitors Warwickshire public service performance in areas such as transportation and economic development.
Chilvers pointed out: “Even on core trunk routes we have situations where the university bus, which should be every 10 minutes, is every 20 and sometimes 40 minutes and it is a similar story with the X17 which is another absolutely crucial service.”
Warwickshire’s bus driver shortages are emblematic of a broader UK-wide situation. According to the Confederation of Passenger Transport (CPT), almost 10% of bus driver positions were vacant in November 2022, with the figure being 8% for the West Midlands.
The shortage has previously been attributed to factors such as Brexit, which has led to an outflux of EU drivers; low pay and long working hours; and migration of drivers from the bus industry to the HGV sector. The CPT has argued that the government should aim to increase bus driver supply by increasing overseas hiring and coaxing economically-inactive people back into the labour market.
The diminished quality of service provision has previously sparked complaints from passengers. Paul Garner – a Warwickshire resident – has accused Stagecoach bus services of problems such as services being cancelled in winter months, buses driving past stops where schoolchildren are waiting to be picked up, and school collection services running late on a frequent basis.
Margaret Smith, head of transport planning for Warwickshire Council, noted that the Council has had discussions with Stagecoach regarding bus service quality. She also highlighted the fact that Stagecoach has enhanced efforts to train and recruit bus drivers, although because this would likely take time, it would be a while before this ameliorated bus driver shortages.
According to Warwickshire Council’s Assistant Director of Communities, David Ayton Hill, there is significant room for collaboration between the Council and Transport for West Midlands (TfWM) to address persistent labour shortages.
“We had a meeting with Transport for West Midlands, and it is a problem they are facing as well so we are seeing if we can promote some joint job fairs and using Warwickshire Skills Hub to promote the opportunities. There is a huge demand for logistics drivers currently and Warwickshire is particularly sensitive to that.”