Mayor of West Yorkshire Tracy Brabin has told how she’s taken a bus company to task over a reduction in services.
Arriva Yorkshire has cut services on a Saturday in parts of Kirklees, including Huddersfield, blaming a shortage of drivers.
The bus operator issued a public apology after a dressing down from the mayor and tweeted: “We’re really sorry if we have let you down, we are suffering with the nationwide driver shortage.”
The mayor, a regular bus user herself, has set about revolutionising bus services in West Yorkshire and wants them brought back under public control. She has also teamed up with all the bus companies aiming to recruit 1,000 new drivers to help combat the shortage.
This week she announced that fares would be capped at £2 per journey and she wants to improve routes and re-connect communities.
Services hit include the 231/232 service which includes Waterloo and Lepton; the 230/230A between Dewsbury and Grange Moor; the 261 which takes in Cleckheaton, Heckmondwike, Mirfield and Kirkheaton; and the 228 between Cleckheaton and Huddersfield, via Liversedge and Roberttown.
Speaking during a Q&A on BBC Radio Leeds, Ms Brabin said Arriva’s decision to cut back services was “not acceptable.”
She added: “Because I’d had a lot of emails and contact from people really struggling I brought in the head of Arriva to my office and we had a very strong conversation about our communities being left to drift.
“I read out several emails from residents who are left without a service at all. I was pleased to see the following day Arriva did write an open letter apologising to the public but that’s not good enough. We want services.
“We did get a reassurance that things would come back to some form of normality in July but I will definitely be breathing down Arriva’s neck. If we are going to get people back on the bus they must to have a bus to get on.
“There are other companies not making such deep cuts and I will be monitoring what Arriva does. There are people in our communities who, if the buses aren’t running, they don’t go out.”
In a statement Arriva said: “Bus companies across West Yorkshire have suffered from the UK-wide driver shortage over recent months, which has resulted in some last-minute cancellations.
“Buses not turning up because of last-minute cancellations goes completely against our service standards and what passengers rightly expect from us. We don’t want to let you down, and we’re sorry if we have done recently.
“We know the scaled-back timetable we’re introducing isn’t a perfect solution, but we’ve worked hard to ensure critical routes continue to be served, while less-used routes are served with less frequency.
“We feel this is the least disruptive option available to us. These changes should mean we have enough drivers to operate the published timetable and to minimise disruption, whilst we work behind the scenes to recruit new drivers to help us restore our services.
“We’d like to take this opportunity to thank our existing drivers, who continue to work extremely hard to run the level of service we do today. Their dedication is exemplary, and we’d like to thank them for their continued efforts.
“If you know a friend or relative who would like to drive their career forward with Arriva Yorkshire, do please let them know we’re recruiting. We welcome applicants via arrivabusjobs.co.uk.”
Ms Brabin said she was keen to help recruit new drivers and added: “I have been working – and it’s quite unique – with all the operators on a recruitment drive so we are trying to get 1,000 bus drivers recruited.
“I am particularly focused on women getting into the sector and I was really pleased to meet some women drivers already in post. They are talking really enthusiastically about how the job really works for them. It’s public facing and it’s something they really enjoy.
“But it’s also about bus companies understanding that the terms and conditions and flexibility of the job need to be there to attract people.”
Ms Brabin urged people to consider a career on the buses and said: “We are trying to get more people recruited, young people in particular.
“If you can drive, you can drive a bus. If you go through the training you can drive a bus. It’s a great career and you can progress into management roles too.”