• Mon. May 20th, 2024

Oxford Bus Company boss says Brexit and Covid-19 to blame for driver shortage


Sep 15, 2022

The boss of Oxford Bus Company has said Brexit and Covid-19 are just some of reasons the business is struggling to hire drivers, as customers feel the impacts of delays.

In recent weeks, the company has taken to social media to warn customers that due to a lack of drivers routes across the network may be disrupted, with ‘gaps’ in some services.

The shortage of staff comes as Oxfordshire County Council has launched a consultation on six new traffic filters in the city, the aim of which is to reduce congestion in order to improve bus services.

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In an agreement between the county council and Oxford Bus Company, if congestion is reduced in the city by 20 per cent the bus company will be able to implement new routes and 159 electric buses.

Louise Upton, cabinet member for health and transport at Oxford City Council, said both councils are aware of the “problem” as driver shortages are an on-going national issue.

“The filters are part of the solution. As a council there is nothing we can do about their recruitment.

“The best the councils can do to help with this problem is to get the congestion down to help them run their routes,” she explained.

Luke Marion, Oxford Bus Company and Thames Travel interim managing director, apologised for disruptions passengers may face in light of the shortage.

He said: “There is a national shortage of bus drivers, caused by multiple factors including Brexit, retirements during Covid-19 and drivers leaving the industry to logistics jobs.

“The challenge has recently been exacerbated by the holiday season, which has meant the level of services we have delivered as not been as high as we want them to be.

“When we have been forced to cancel services, we do everything we can to prioritise less busy journeys for cancellation and to ensure updates are made available to customers as quickly as possible.

“Recruitment is challenging, as it is in many sectors and so we have taken a proactive approach to the issue by holding open events, simplifying the application and on-boarding process and improving our rates of pay.

Oxford Mail: An Oxford Bus Company bus An Oxford Bus Company bus

“We have also recently employed a dedicated recruitment officer to help us to carry out an even wider range of recruitment related activity. We are also offering attractive sign on bonuses to anyone with a bus driving licence who wants to join us. Bus driving is a hugely rewarding job and I’d encourage people to give it a go.

“We remain committed to delivering an excellent service and our thanks go to our passengers for their understanding and patience as we tackle this issue.

“While we have a strong pipeline of new applicants wishing to join us, it is possible that in the coming weeks we may need to make some temporary timetable changes to make our services more reliable for customers and we are working hard on this at present and are reviewing and discussing possible courses of action with Oxfordshire County Council."

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This story was written by Sophie Perry. She joined the team in 2021 as a digital reporter.

You can get in touch with her by emailing: sophie.perry@newsquest.co.uk

Follow her on Twitter @itssophieperry

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