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Trent Barton cancels 1,600 bus services in a fortnight because they’re 130 drivers short

The scale of the crisis in local bus services has been laid bare after operator Trentbarton confirmed it has 130 vacant driver jobs.

The company, which runs dozens of routes around the East Midlands, was forced to cancel 1,614 individual timed services in just two weeks last month as a result of the staff shortage, leading to concerns of communities being left “high and dry”.

Figures show the 1,600 services were cancelled between August 3 and August 17.

August 6 was the worst-hit day, when 211 services were called off that morning.

The company says the cancellations were unavoidable as it struggles to fill gaps in its workforce, but it adds the figure was just three per cent of the almost 50,000 services provided during this period.

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A company spokesperson said: “The national shortage of bus drivers has been caused by a variety of factors, including Covid retirements and absences, migration of bus drivers to logistics jobs, and strikes and delays at the driver licensing authority.

“Our driving team currently has 130 vacancies – 17 per cent short of what we would need to run a full timetable. That shows how well our drivers are doing to only lose three per cent of timetabled services.

“Our drivers – and their support teams – are working flat out to do their very best to carry as many customers as they can.

“Driver shortages are impacting the whole of the bus industry and many other sectors.

“Every day we announce via social media which services are not running at which times, to be upfront about cancellations so customers can plan journeys.

“Our thanks go to our customers for their understanding and patience whilst we tackle the problem.”

Major changes are on the horizon for bus provision in the county, with Nottinghamshire County Council confirming some routes could be at risk if longer-term funding models come forward.

It follows the removal of Covid-related Government bus grants, with dwindling passenger numbers leading to a cash crisis for providers struggling to keep services running.

Last month, the authority stepped in to provide alternative funding in a bid to temporarily save 19 routes from the axe.

Concerns remain, however, about how these routes will fair once funding packages come to an end next April.

Other funding support includes cash to maintain the 141 service, which was axed by Trentbarton this summer before rival Stagecoach agreed to take over the route following public criticism.

The new Stagecoach 141 will take effect from Monday, September 5, with the company publishing its unchanged timetable for the route.

 

And Councillor Neil Clarke (Con), the authority’s cabinet member for transport and environment, says he has sympathy with bus operators during this period.

He said: “I can understand it from their point of view. They haven’t got a room full of drivers that they can use in case somebody doesn’t turn up.

“It is very difficult, but it’s a question of them trying to do their best to employ reliable drivers who are going to be there regularly when they’re needed.”

However, Councillor Jason Zadrozny (Ash Ind), the leader of Ashfield District Council, believes more action should come to prevent communities from being cut off.

“There is a bus crisis in Nottinghamshire and nobody seems willing or able to take responsibility,” he said.

“Bus users are being left high and dry by the systematic failure of bus operators like Trentbarton, the Government and the county council.

“All you ever hear from Conservative transport bosses is ‘use buses or lose buses’. Residents can’t use bus services if they don’t turn up.”

Trentbarton adds it has more than 55 drivers in its training academy who will be working behind the wheel “as soon as possible”.

Announcing the removal of three Derbyshire services from its network this week, it added that resources saved through this move fill gaps across the remaining routes.

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