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FERGUS EWING: Stagecoach vows to communicate about buses

By Fergus Ewing

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The Stagecoach consultation took place on a bus at the bus station, Farraline Park...Stagecoach consultation.Picture: SPP. Image No. 040286..
The Stagecoach consultation took place on a bus at the bus station, Farraline Park...Stagecoach consultation.Picture: SPP. Image No. 040286..

Last week I held a very productive meeting with Stagecoach managing director David Beaton, Stagecoach Divisional Traffic Manager, Alex Flanagan, Councillor Alasdair Christie, Councillor Jackie Hendry and community leaders, to discuss ongoing issues regarding bus services across Highland.

Firstly, I want to say that I understand there is deep frustration felt by many about the service and the communication of changes to services.

I do feel that everyone involved behind the scenes shares these frustrations and wants to work productively to try and find solutions.

Fergus Ewing
Fergus Ewing

I think it’s also important to give the background of why these issues are arising having had a very honest and frank conversation with Stagecoach about the situation that is facing their business, and many other businesses across the country.

Like most transport businesses in the UK, Stagecoach are experiencing driver shortages as a result of many factors including having fewer European drivers available, COVID absences and DVLA delays in releasing provisional licenses to new candidates.

There have been many employment events held by Stagecoach to try secure extra staffing but recruiting staff to public transport roles is proving to be increasingly difficult across many Scottish industries at the moment.

Stagecoach have informed me they have a potential 33 new drivers, at various stages of training and interviewing, to come on board to the Highland team but as I’m sure many can appreciate, comprehensive training and induction programmes, DVSA medical exams, and provisional entitlements to start on a bus, are all part of the rigorous training that Stagecoach must adhere to before a driver can go out on the road.

The majority of routes are running, but it’s been acknowledged that some areas of the Inverness City Network are having to make temporary adjustments to ensure the running of a reliable service while minimising disruption to users.

At the meeting, there was agreement to work together on a transport group that would include Stagecoach, community leaders and the Highland Council to ensure communication is more direct on services that might be affected, and work together to see what solutions may be applicable to alleviate the situation.

For the many drivers, who are showing up for daily for work in the midst of driver shortages across the industry that is out of their control, I’d ask if you can please be patient with them as they work to get you where you need to go.

As always, I’m happy to keep any constituents concerned or affected by this issue updated so please don’t hesitate to contact me if you wish to be kept updated.

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