Chesterfield bus drivers face abusive customers after claims one quarter of Stagecoach services cancelled
A Chesterfield bus driver says senior company bosses are ‘burying their heads in the sand’ over staff shortages and service cancellations.
The Chesterfield depot driver says about one quarter of Stagecoach buses in the area are currently scrapped due to driver shortages.
Stagecoach has blamed ‘challenges beyond our control’ after cancelling some of its services connecting Chesterfield with Brimington, Holme Hall, Clay Cross and other local destinations ‘for the foreseeable future’.
The firm says Brexit and the Covid-19 pandemic are having a severe impact on bus operators.
The Chesterfield driver, who asked not be named, said a job he used to enjoy has become ‘horrendous’.
He said: "HGV firms are dangling the carrot of more money. Drivers can earn a lot more an hour and haulage firms are offering to put them through the tests as well.
"Senior managers at bus companies, and not just Stagecoach, are burying their heads in the sand about the long term future.”
The driver says bus jobs have not seen the steep rise in wages of haulage drivers and train drivers – despite also requiring high levels of responsibility and skill.
He said working through the pandemic had seen some drivers fall ill and others face abuse from passengers.
"They stuck mask wearing signs up but it was never enforced by the Government or the police,” he said.
"One driver caught Covid and got seriously ill. He couldn’t walk for six months. It’s been a horrendous job during the pandemic.
"Now we have all these cancellations and it is the drivers who the public blames.
"One driver got collared at Chesterfield on his way to the rest room and the woman said to him: ‘Don’t you feel guilty for taking a break?’.
"It is just destroying people. Across the country bus drivers are fed up and have had enough.”
Although the driver says he understands people’s frustrations over the cancellations, they are ‘blaming the wrong people’.
"It is not our local bosses but senior managers who are making the wrong calls.
"The haulage industry seems to see the long term picture. I have heard of HGV drivers being offered 40 per cent pay rises.”
Stagecoach in Chesterfield said the driver’s claims about the number of cancellations and number of drivers who have left were incorrect.
A spokesperson said 96 per cent of services had run over the last four weeks.
Chesterfield’s Labour MP Toby Perkins described the current situation as a ‘perfect storm’.
After a meeting with John Young, commercial director at Stagecoach Yorkshire, Mr Perkins said: "I am informed that significant numbers of drivers have been leaving Stagecoach, for a wide variety of reasons, meaning they simply cannot cover every journey.”
Mr Perkins said bus driving was a skilled job that ‘has not seen the wage growth that the profession deserves’ and many drivers were being ‘poached’ by companies like DPD and Amazon.
There is also a very real threat of industrial action this autumn.
Union leaders say they will fight a ‘relentless campaign’ for better pay and conditions for Stagecoach employees at the Stonegravels depot in Chesterfield.
Unite regional coordinating officer Scott Lennon said: “Our members have not had a pay rise for two years.
"Now Stagecoach are again using the pandemic as a cover to block a decent wage rise.
“Our members are incensed at Stagecoach’s ‘penny pinching’. If passengers face serious disruption this autumn and winter, it will be entirely Stagecoach’s fault."
Chesterfield residents have also offered plenty of support for hard-working drivers since news of the cancellations broke last week.
James Cars Keady said on our Facebook page: “To be fair I look at how much they earn to drive a bus and the clients would put me off as well as the poor wage.”
Chris Grafton posted: “Pay the drivers a better wage and watch the vacancies get filled.”
A spokesperson for Stagecoach Yorkshire said: “Figures for the last 4 weeks show that we were running over 96 per cent of services in the Chesterfield area.
“As is the case with many industries, we are facing a short-term staffing situation that is out of our control due to external factors.
“Our team are doing a fantastic job in the circumstances, and we are working hard to get the new drivers who are in our training pipeline on the road as soon as training and DVLA licencing delays allow.
“The vast majority of our customers have been very understanding and we thank them for their patience.
"However, any abuse of our employees who are delivering vital links in our communities is completely unacceptable.”
The following services are cancelled for the ‘foreseeable future’:
Service 80 from Chesterfield at 07:15, 08:25, 09:45, 10:45, 11:45, 12:45, 13:45, 14:45, 15:50 and 16:57;
Service 80 from Brimmington at 06:40, 07:48, 08:55, 10:15, 11:15, 12:15, 13:15, 14:15, 15:17, 16:23 and 17:30;
Services 51 From Chesterfield at 07:25, 09:03, 10:44, 12:24, 14:03, 15:42 and 17:27;
Services 39 from Grangewood at 08:01, 09:08, 10:23, 11:38, 12:53, 14:08, 15:23 and 16:38;
Services 39 from Holmehall at 07:32, 08:35, 09:50, 11:05, 12:20, 13:35, 14:50 and 16:05;
Services 54/54a from Clay Cross at 06:51, 07:18, 07:51, 08:19, 09:01, 09:25, 10:01, 11:01, 15:28, 16:33 and 17:35;
Services 54/54a from Chesterfield at 06:20, 07:20, 07:48, 08:28, 08:54, 09:30, 10:30, 14:53, 15:59, 17:01 and 18:04;
Services 54/54a from Clay Cross at 06:51, 07:18, 07:51, 08:19, 09:01, 09:25, 10:01, 11:01, 15:28, 16:33 and 17:35.