[Dan Norris with First CEO Doug Claringbold and Stagecoach Head of Strategic Development Nick Small]
The effect Covid is still having on local bus services was highlighted at a packed Bus User Forum organised by Metro Mayor Dan Norris.
Members of the public were able to quiz the Metro Mayor along with representatives from FirstBus and Stagecoach about the local bus services. The meeting was the first such organised by Dan Norris and took place in Paulton.
The meeting revealed the impact Covid continues to have on bus services despite the Government’s abolition of all regulations. Stagecoach Head of Strategic Development Nick Small said that their attempts to train bus drivers to alleviate the current shortage kept being stymied as “it seems as fast as we train people, others get Covid”, whilst Doug Claringbold, CEO of FirstBus, reported that a total of 37 drivers were off last week with the illness across the region.
Metro Mayor Dan Norris said: “I know many people are rightly annoyed if buses are delayed or canceled but we heard today how much of this is due to bus driver sickness. Covid may not be in the headlines but it’s still having a huge impact under the radar. And our bus network is also suffering its own form of “long covid”.
Only 75% of passengers are traveling compared to before the pandemic. That has a knock-on effect on fare revenue. It can all cause a vicious circle of decline. But what was hugely positive was that so many people wanted to use the buses and were open to new ideas such as community transport or different timetables.
It’s clear to create the service local people need and deserve we will need to make some big choices. I am very grateful to everyone who came along to share their wisdom and made the forum such as success.”