Bus driver shortage ‘worse than previously thought’, says transport union

Unite said a survey of 500 of its activists working throughout the UK indicated there are driver shortages at 99% of bus garages.

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Shortages of bus drivers are far higher than previously indicated as workers leave because of low pay and long hours, new research suggests.

Unite said a survey of 500 of its activists working throughout the UK indicated there are driver shortages at 99% of bus garages.

Four out of five respondents said vacancies have increased since the start of the pandemic in March 2020.

The union said its study paints a “highly disturbing” picture for passengers.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “This survey reveals that bus drivers are leaving the industry in droves due to low pay, poor working conditions and long hours.

“Bus companies have got to stop trying to sweep driver shortages under the carpet and start tackling the fundamental problems in the industry.

“If this isn’t swiftly addressed, shortages will only get worse.

“Unite’s campaign fighting for a better deal on jobs pay and conditions includes action to get better pay for bus drivers across the UK.”

Unite said almost half of those surveyed revealed that their garage had lost between 20 and 40 drivers, while a fifth said it was more.

The union said bus drivers’ pay has been its the top industrial issue in recent months, leading to a number of disputes.

Unite national officer for passenger transport Bobby Morton said: “The survey lays bare the shortage of bus drivers in the UK. Bus operators must take these findings on board and act before an even greater number of services are cancelled due to a lack of drivers.

“Until the bus operators improve pay and conditions and reduce the long hours culture then drivers will continue to leave and new entrants will be few and far between.”

Most of those surveyed said staff shortages have led to services being cancelled.

A Department for Transport spokesman said: “We are working closely with the bus sector to mitigate workforce issues, as we have done throughout the pandemic.

“The DVSA has made 50,000 more bus, coach and HGV tests available each year, and the DVLA has sped up the processing of provisional bus driving licences to around five days.”