Bus companies hit by driver shortages across Scotland

The frequency of some services has been reduced.

Bus companies hit by driver shortages across Scotland MarioGuti via IStock
Bus: Shortages have partly been caused by training being delayed by lockdowns.

Bus companies have been hit by a driver shortage across Scotland with some facing vacancies of nearly a fifth.

First Scotland has been forced to make short-notice cancellations which have reduced the frequency of some services in central Scotland from half-hourly to hourly, and has seen buses reduce in frequency in Glasgow too.

It is 17% short of the number of drivers it needs to run a full service.

The Confederation of Passenger Transport UK – Scotland (CPT), which represents operators, said vacancies had doubled since 2019 to average 12.5 per cent across Scotland.

Advertisement

West Coast Motors and Borders Buses, which is run jointly, admitted it was “struggling” and “just making service with all hands on deck”.

First Scotland interim managing director Duncan Cameron said: “We are going to have to reduce the timetable further to improve reliability.

“Things will get worse, but I hope this is the last time we will have to do it.”

He said the shortage had been caused by training being delayed by lockdowns, long waits for new licences being issued and the “hottest” employment market for 20 years prompting some would-be drivers opting for other jobs instead.

Advertisement

Cameron also expressed concern about the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) writing to bus drivers to ask them to consider driving lorries.

He said: “The heavy goods vehicles logistics shortage is not the only problem when bus companies cannot run full timetables.

“It seems that sector is receiving much more attention and priority than us.”

A spokesperson for Lothian Buses said: “Like many other transport providers, Lothian are in an extremely challenging recruitment market which, coupled with delays to medicals and licence applications, together with our safety protocols for colleagues who find themselves in the Covid-19 track and trace cycle, means we are experiencing resourcing difficulties in our driving team on a day-to-day basis.

“Fortunately, however, we are better placed than many other operators and we are hopeful that some of the pressures we are currently facing will begin to reduce as the combined impact of these factors begins to lessen.”

Jointly-owned West Coast Motors and Borders Buses said: “We are struggling for drivers like most.

“However, we are just making service with all hands on deck.

Advertisement

“All those who have a licence, including managers and the owner, are driving.”

A spokesman for Stagecoach said it was “continuing to operate the majority of our bus services” and seeking to resume a full timetable “as quickly as possible”.

The spokesman added: “We are seeing continued strong demand for jobs in our sector and are focused on getting the new drivers who are in our training pipeline on the road as soon as DVLA licensing delays allow.”

CPT UK – Scotland director Paul White said the “vast majority of services” were running normally across the country and operators were prioritising popular routes where there was disruption.