A shortage of bus drivers has meant passengers have faced cancellations and delays to some bus services in Bristol.
The situation is being blamed on government funding cuts, the impact of the pandemic and Brexit issues – with bus drivers also being ‘poached’ to drive HGV vehicles.
Metro Mayor Dan Norris has called for urgent action to solve the problem and for the driver shortage to be addressed.
He said: “The government suddenly cut two-thirds of its funding for West of England bus services, and that led to some routes being cut back by local bus companies.
“We need government money to head our way from London to benefit people in South Bristol who depend on bus services to get to work and study, to go shopping, and to enjoy a social life. These aren’t luxuries: they are bread-and-butter needs for many local people.
“Now a driver shortage means more passengers are being left bus-less with more reduced services. The transport industry has been issuing warnings about the driver shortage for a long time, but a lack of strategic planning over the last decade means we now face a crisis, with a shortage of drivers across the economy…
“I am working hard to secure additional funding for bus services but until the driver shortage is addressed adequately, no amount of funding can guarantee local bus services will continue running.”
A First West of England spokesperson said: “As is being experienced across the bus industry, we have seen varying levels of driver shortages over the last few weeks at First West of England, similar to other road transport businesses.
“We are doing everything we can to maintain a comprehensive network of services that supports our customers and our communities.
“The majority of routes are running normally although we have made temporary timetable adjustments for some routes to ensure a reliable service and minimise disruption. We thank customers for their patience and understanding while we overcome this short-term situation.
“We continue to offer an attractive and competitive employee proposition, both for our existing dedicated team and for new drivers undergoing training. People are keen to become bus drivers and serve their local communities, and we are working to make that process as easy as possible.”
Main image CB Bristol Design.