Driver shortage causes disruption to Thanet’s bus services

Stagecoach South East Managing Director Joel Mitchell

Driver shortages, the impact of Brexit and covid have been blamed for the increasing number of cancelled bus services in Thanet and further afield.

Dozens of Thanet routes have been cancelled today (December 9) and were cancelled yesterday but the issue has seen routes dropped over an extended period.

Today’s cancellations affect services including the Loop, 32,34 and number 8A among others. The issue is not isolated to Thanet, with services affected across the board.

 

A spokesperson for Stagecoach said “Our local team is working incredibly hard to ensure we continue to run the majority of our timetabled services and we remain focused on prioritising the less frequent services and those that we know are most important for our customers.

“The lingering effects of the pandemic combined with record numbers of unfilled jobs in the economy and the emerging impact of Brexit, has resulted in recruitment challenges for organisations across the transport and logistics sectors. Nationally there is estimated to be a shortfall of 4,000 qualified bus drivers and added to this, there continue to be some delays in processing bus driver licences at the DVLA.

“We are working round the clock to recruit people into our team and train them, and we’re seeing a lot of interest in bus driver jobs.

“We apologise to our customers who have been affected by these short-term service changes, and we would like to thank them for their patience while we work to recruit and get new drivers on the road.

“There are still frequent buses on the Loop service, but we encourage customers to plan ahead and leave a little extra time for their journey. Where we do have to make day-to-day changes, we are providing live updates through our Twitter feed @StagecoachSE.”

MD Joel Mitchell

Joel Mitchell, Managing Director at Stagecoach South East, says that over the past two years the company has experienced challenges never seen before, particularly with the onset of the pandemic last year.

He said a number of drivers are also opting for different careers, saying: “We have seen a number of our drivers choosing to leave the business for a wide variety of reasons. It is true that some of our colleagues are opting for other driving opportunities – such as HGV and van driving – but that is only a small part of the issue.

“The pandemic has influenced some people to make different choices about their futures. An example of this is that more of us are seeking to take early retirement – this has increased to around 55% and has contributed to short-term issues with delivering the services that our communities need. However, we do have some positive news to share as we work to recover our business and tackle the challenges we face.

“Bus driving remains an attractive profession, with flexible working, guaranteed hours and promotional opportunities; it can be a long-term stable career. We’re pleased to have seen that we have no shortage of people wanting to come and drive our buses and in recent months, we’ve received a promising number of applications for our driver and engineering roles and now have a strong pipeline of candidates ready to start new roles at Stagecoach South East.

“Whilst this is extremely positive news, it will take a little bit of time to get all of our new colleagues behind the wheel in in the workshop. Firstly, even before training can start, every new driver has to have a licence issued by the DVLA. Processing delays has seen new drivers waiting between 8 and 12 weeks to receive their licence. Thankfully, the situation is improving but there are still significant delays.

“Once our drivers have secured their new licence, they can enrol on our free industry-leading training programme – which covers everything from health and safety to route learning and customer service. Ultimately, the process of appointing a new driver and getting them ready for the road can take up to 12 weeks.”

Mr Mitchell said that, with circumstances outside of the bus firm’s control, it is impossible to predict how long the situation will last, but he “ expects it to improve as our new drivers complete the final stages of their training.”

Recruitment continues, find details at stagecoach.com/careers.

32 Comments

  1. When it comes to Stagecoach, the words brewery and p**sup spring to mind. They pay lousy wages and huge dividends to shareholders. The sooner these services are remunicipalised the better.

    • I know a few bus drivers and they HATE the job. They are frequently threatened by ahole passengers screaming obscenities at them and threatening them with violence. A lot of the drivers are off with stress due to the turds they have to drive round. It also doesn’t help that other road users also treat them like crap and verbally abuse them.

      • The fares are already increased, but the vehicles are vintage, the morale woeful, the network shrinking, and the customer service minimal.
        The missing link here Peter, is the Souter’s, who in their kindly, wee free way, have extracted the marrow from the bones that all is left of our bus industry.
        Like so much in our run down, non resilient, part of the world, it staggers on, hoping that a fresh coat of paint, will stave off collapse.
        To get people out of their cars, you need reliable, cheap and comfortable public transport, run by people who like public transport and who are not out to exploit others. If we don’t get people out of their cars, you can expect gridlock, whether our cars are electric or not.
        Sooner or later, investment, not dividends, would be necessary which is why they are selling the carcase to National Express.

  2. I am of an age to remember municipalised bus services, owned and run by the local authorities London Transport and Maidstone Borough Council. They all worked well and had attractive liveries. Thatcher ended all that.

  3. If there was no COVID, what would be their excuse,
    Trouble with Stagecoach is their poor record over the years ,half an inch of snow and the service comes to a grinding halt!!!

    • As well as scrapping/changing services. I live in Birchington, and since they changed the 8 route I can no longer get a direct bus to Broadstairs (and wouldn’t it make sense to reintroduce the Minnis Bay to Ramsgate coastal route in the summer months?).

  4. I was waiting with bags of shopping in Cliftonville for the 8a to Palm Bay estate on Tuesday at 2.40 pm, by 3.45 pm I gave up and walked as far as I could before stopping for a rest and continuing. Two buses should have come along within that time but nothing. It was freezing cold, wet and blowing a gale. I froze and couldn’t get warm for ages once in. That was the second time in 3 days at the same time.
    The least Stagecoach should do is put warnings on the bus timetable boards at each bus stop so passengers understand their bus might not come. It is disgusting that an advertised journey times are just cancelled without any warnings at all. Come on stagecoach, get your act together.

    • If you have a smartphone, you can track buses “real time” and check when the next one is due (I don’t own a smartphone myself though).

      • The app is completely incorrect. Buses frequently disappear (I can only assume they are abducted by UFOs), it will say a bus is coming in X number of minutes, the cointer goes down the time comes and goes and no bus shows. Quite frankly it’s better not to use it, it only provides a false sense of belief that a bus is coming

  5. EU drivers went back to the EU after Brexit. Other drivers left to work in more attractive driving jobs filling in for those EU drivers who did those jobs but who went back after Brexit. Thanet voted solidly to leave the EU. So you voted for it, and you knew what you were voting for remember. Why complain now? You wanted it, you voted for it, you got it. It’s the Will of the (Thanet) People. Plenty of time to consider your decision while you wait endlessly for a bus.

      • I’m glad you are rich. Since Brexit prices have risen due to the drop in the pound and the loss of EU HGV drivers causing shortages. Apparently this is of no concern to you. The OBR says the loss of GDP will be 2% a year due to the pandemic, but another 4% due to Brexit. Sewage is dumped in rivers due to the lack of EU chemicals to purify it, there has been a massive rise in red tape costs for exporters, restaurants can’t get staff, and it has been estimated that the new tax rises will only help to cover government Brexit related costs and not the cost of Covid19. There’s a border down the Irish sea and the UK union is under threat while Britain is now a world laughing stock. That’s just a sample but it’s good to know that Peter Checksfield is happy with all that.

    • Funny, I can never recall seeing an EU driver in all my decades of riding the buses in Thanet & parts of Kent.

      • I can, EU workers were everywhere, you just had to look. As for the App it cancels buses at the last minute. Of limited use.
        We constantly dismiss the effect of leaving the EU, talk about battling on with the Blitz spirit, say it could be worse, blame covid, blame remoaners, blame the woke, blame the labour party, even though they have not been in power for over a decade, and ignore the harm done to our economy, the standing of the UK and what is worse the unity of the UK.
        I want to see some real benefit, something, anything, tangible.
        If someone says Manston I will have them sectioned.

    • How can anyone be blamed for busses not turning up because the country voted for Brexit. In that was the case you might as well blame Brexit for everything, including the government Christmas party !

  6. I spoke to an Albanian driver on the Loop but he’s technically not EU anyway, Brexit means you don’t have to tender throughout Europe but this contract should be bought “in house” and any surplus should be put into improving the service and not into shareholders pockets!

  7. Has Joel Mitchell actually spoken to anyone who use the bus service I doubt it , maybe a question and answer session could be arranged

  8. I don’t understand what BREXIT has to do with smelly dirty germ & virus packed stagecoach busses. Sorry, please explain….

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