The government must continue to take ‘urgent’ action to find a way to speed up bus driver training and licensing, while the longer term structural issues in the UK workforce are planned.
These are the opinions of two councillors representing the North East Joint Transport Committee. In a joint statement they said: “The bus network in the North East, like many other sectors, is being impacted by a national shortage of qualified drivers. We acknowledge the impact that this is having on passengers and communities through a higher level of bus cancellations than usual. Our region relies heavily on its bus services and too many people are seeing their daily journeys affected. Our bus companies are doing the best they can to minimise disruption, but under very challenging circumstances.
“This is a national issue and one which is the result of a number of complex factors including post-Brexit labour shortages – which has seen a large number of skilled workers leave the UK, higher levels of Covid-related sickness or absence and a huge backlog nationally in driver testing. All of this together means that bus operators have daily shortfalls in the number of drivers needed, but they aren’t able to train up new drivers quickly enough to fill the gaps.
“The Confederation of Passenger Transport (CPT) estimates there is a shortage currently standing at 4,000+ bus drivers in the UK – this is an alarming figure and one which the Government must address with haste. The situation was not helped by the Government writing to a number of bus drivers last week encouraging them to return as HGV drivers.
“We need the Government to take urgent action to speed up driver training and licensing, whilst the longer term structural issues in the UK workforce are worked through. In the meantime we are determined to work together as a region to minimise the impact that labour shortages is having on our communities.”