North of England bus firm has almost 100 trainee drivers waiting more than three times longer than usual for licences and test dates.
“We’ll always do our best for you.”
That’s the promise to customers today from Alex Hornby, CEO of North of England bus firm Transdev (who recently launched #TeamPennine services in Huddersfield), as bus services throughout the country continue to be affected by driver shortages.
So far, a relatively small number of journeys provided by Transdev across Yorkshire and Lancashire have had to be cancelled – but the bus firm says it fully realises the inconvenience caused and is thanking its customers for their patience, while it pulls out the stops to resolve a situation which the Confederation of Passenger Transport (CPT) says has led to a shortage of more than 4,000 drivers nationwide.
Customer numbers on Transdev’s buses continue to recover strongly from the pandemic, with its buses now carrying 85 per cent of the numbers on board at the same time in 2019 – ahead of the nationwide figure of 75 per cent from the Department for Transport.
But the bus firm says prospective drivers at its award-winning training facility, The Academy, are currently waiting over three times longer than usual to get their licences and test dates confirmed by the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) – leading to delays in moving them forward from the classroom to the road.
Mr Hornby said: “We’re grateful to our colleagues and our customers for their patience with us – we understand entirely how frustrating it is when journeys are cancelled, and it’s the last thing we want to do – especially at a time when we’re attracting more people back to bus.
“We’re using social media and our Transdev Go mobile app, which tracks all our buses in real-time, to keep customers informed – and we’re running a high-profile recruitment campaign highlighting the many benefits we offer to new drivers, including a £1,000 welcome bonus to those already holding a licence.
“Right now, we have 95 new colleagues at The Academy, our in-house driver training facility in Yorkshire and Lancashire. They just want to complete their training and be out on the road serving our customers – but instead, they’re waiting over three times longer than usual to get licences and test dates confirmed from the DVSA.
“Now is the time our industry needs help to resolve these delays, so we can deliver services confidently and get more people back on board. Most of our buses are running as normal and we are attracting new drivers, so the current delays to licensing and testing are very frustrating.
“At an industry-wide level, we’re asking the Government to speed up the provisional licence applications and free up availability of theory and practical tests. We are also keen to introduce our own delegated examiner to help process testing, but DVSA training needed to help us introduce these roles remains suspended. Meanwhile, we’ll continue to do all we can and continue our campaign to recruit more new drivers.”
Transdev’s customers can track their bus in real-time throughout its journey using the free-to-download Transdev Go mobile app – while each of its locally branded bus operators serving Lancashire, Greater Manchester and Yorkshire are also providing service updates via Twitter.