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Stagecoach working ‘round the clock’ in Highlands to recruit drivers amid timetable concerns

Stagecoach Highland has come in for criticism from users.
Stagecoach Highland has come in for criticism from users.

Stagecoach has stressed it is working “round the clock” in the Highlands to recruit drivers after concerns were raised about it failing to keep to timetables.

The bus operator said it was continuing to face challenges as a result of the pandemic and while it admitted it had to cut some services, it was trying to keep the disruption to a minimum.

The news comes just days before a national train strike which will halt all ScotRail services running in and out of Aberdeen and Inverness.

Recruitment issues are believed to be currently facing bus firms across the country.

In September last year The Press and Journal reported that First Bus in Aberdeen was recruiting agency drivers from as far as London to keep services running.

Reports of no-show buses and long waits

Councillor Duncan Macpherson, who represents the Inverness South ward, said a number of constituents had been in touch with him about buses in the Highland capital failing to turn up in recent weeks.

Mr Macpherson said: “What gives the Stagecoach bus company the right to disregard its own printed timetables and treat our Inverness public so poorly in their provision of a bus service?

Highland councillor Duncan Macpherson.

“Highland bus passengers regularly report failures of buses to turn up. And an incredibly inconsistent, hugely unreliable and hap-hazard bus service.”

He continued: “The service being provided to bus passengers in 2022, falls so far short of the minimum acceptable standard expected of a bus company.”

Mr Macpherson has had a lively debate from bus users on his social media page. 

He said he has been told of regular no-shows of buses and passengers waiting patiently for hours on end at bus stops.

Inverness bus station. Photo: Sandy McCook/DC Thomson

He said: “Bus passengers are correct to point out that Stagecoach have a contractual obligation to meet with the provision of a reliable public bus service.

“Based on their personal accounts of the recent failures by Stagecoach and other emails and first hand testimonies that I’ve received recently from local constituents, the bus transport company are definitely not meeting the expected standards and should therefore be reported to the traffic commissioner.”

Limiting cancellations

A Stagecoach Highland spokesman said: “Bus networks across the UK are continuing to face challenges as a result of the pandemic, as well as changes in the labour market and the impact of rising cost inflation in the economy.

“We remain absolutely committed to working with our Scottish Government and local authority partners, as well as other stakeholders, to deliver the best networks we can for local communities, taking account of the current difficult environment and the changes we have seen in when and how people travel.

David Beaton, managing director of Stagecoach Highland in its Inverness depot. Picture by Sandy McCook.

He continued: “We are also working around the clock to recruit new drivers to address the shortages affecting the wider transport and logistics sector.

“It can take an average of 12 weeks for a professional bus driver to be fully trained and out on the road, and our training school is progressing this as speedily as possible.

“The majority of our bus services are continuing to operate, and wherever possible, we are limiting any service cancellations to the routes which offer high frequency services to ensure that any disruption is minimised.”

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