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Stagecoach says shortage of drivers to blame as repeated X7 cancellations continue

Stagecoach has been under fire by passengers after receiving an award. Image: Heather Fowlie / DC Thomson.

Stagecoach has said a shortage of 25 drivers is to blame for the repeated cancellations of its troubled X7 service.

It says its Arbroath depot, which is responsible for operating the service, is currently lacking 17% of its total workforce.

The X7 route connects Dundee and Aberdeen, travelling up the A92 coast road through Arbroath, Montrose, St Cyrus, Inverbervie and Stonehaven.

Despite being scheduled for one every hour, there have been consistent cancellations announced on social media the night before journeys.

People that do not see the posts are left waiting at the bus stop for hours.

Conservative north-east MSP Tess White wrote to the bus firm urging them to seek help from the council and Scottish Government to fill the staff voids.

Tess White: ‘Stagecoach needs to do more to improve the way it operates’

She said: “It’s deeply concerning to hear of the driver shortages Stagecoach is facing and the impact this is having on communities across the north-east.

“But these repeated cancellations are more than just numbers.

“Behind each of them are livelihoods being affected, from children and workers feeling unsafe walking home in the dark after a cancellation to the most vulnerable being left stranded in their homes with no access to lifeline services.

Conservative North East MSP Tess White.

“This is why urgent action is needed to address the deepening crisis of driver shortages and I will be raising this in the Scottish Parliament.

Stagecoach also needs to do more to improve the way it operates, both for drivers and customers, otherwise the X7 service will continue to face disruption which would be dreadful for our communities as winter approaches.”

How bad has the X7’s service been?

The X7 has been under extreme pressure since the new timetable was implemented at the start of October.

Local people have shared their stories.

Michelle Fletcher has set up a car pool group to help transport vulnerable people. Image: Michelle Fletcher.

Why does Stagecoach have so many driver shortages?

In a reply to the MSP, Douglas Robertson, managing director for Stagecoach East of Scotland, said his company was struggling for drivers for a number of reasons.

He said staff had left the company for jobs with more sociable hours, due to illness and medical treatments and because attracting drivers to the north-east from other parts of Scotland on a loan or permanent basis was often difficult.

Stagecoach workers across Scotland have banded together to back plans for a strike action amid an ongoing dispute over "unfair" pay.
Stagecoach has given its reasons for the cancellations.

The bus firm say they have 10 drivers training, a further eight due to start their training and 14 more awaiting provisional licenses from the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA).

However, Mr Robertson says he “cannot commit to a timescale given matters are not wholly within our hands” due to DVLA regulations.

The company had been in contact with both Scottish and UK Governments to try and allow for quicker progress in bringing in new drivers.

However, the DVLA says there have been no delays in registering bus drivers with appropriate licenses.

What do the affected passengers think of Stagecoaches reasons?

Passenger Michelle Fletcher said: “They could be communicating with their service users on a more timely basis, not last minute leaving pensioners, school kids and elderly stranded.

“They could update their electronic timetables at bus stops. Not everyone is online.

“We are coming into winter and this will be causing more and more distress.”

Carol Hutton has also hit out at the company.

Carol Hutton and her partner, who suffers from PTSD. Image: Carol Hutton.

She said: “Were they asleep at the wheel whilst qualified drivers blithely wandered off elsewhere?

“Staff shortage is their problem to solve, not ours to suffer.

“If this means agency hire, or paying regular staff higher wages, providing better working terms and conditions, offering signing bonuses to new hires – then do it.”