Arriva criticised as Wakefield bus services axed and changed: Operator blames nationwide driver shortage

Arriva has come under fire after announcing three of its bus services in Wakefield will be axed, amid a raft of timetable changes.

By David Spereall
Tuesday, 21st September 2021, 1:22 pm
Wakefield Bus Station
Wakefield Bus Station

The operator said it had no choice but to make the cuts, amid a nationwide shortage of bus drivers. Around one in 10 in West Yorkshire has left their job since the start of the pandemic.

The 103, which links Stanley and Wrenthorpe to Wakefield, the 104, which goes to Alverthorpe and Eastmoor and the 112, which serves Kirkhamgate and Alverthorpe, will be withdrawn next month.

The 110 meanwhile, which runs between Kettlethorpe and Leeds, via the centre of Wakefield, will be split into two separate services.

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A nationwide shortage of bus drivers, following a post-pandemic exodus, has been blamed for the crisis.

The impact of the cuts on passengers will be partly offset by route changes and new services to ensure those areas will still be covered.

But Matthew Morley, Wakefield Council's Cabinet member for transport, said he was "very disappointed" by the news and suggested the changes risked "confusing" the public.

He also said he was unhappy with a lack of notice from Arriva, with the alterations due to come into force from October 25.

Coun Morley said: "This has come as a bit of a bombshell to be honest.

Councillor Matthew Morley said he was disappointed by the changes

"My officers were meeting with Arriva on Friday about unrelated matters and it was just mentioned to them right at the end.

“We’re trying to set up an emergency meeting now to see what we can do.

"But I think the process could have been handled a lot better by Arriva.

"There needs to be more of a dialogue from them with the local authorities in West Yorkshire."

Arriva said the changes were not commercially driven

Arriva said it did engage with the West Yorkshire Combined Authority (WYCA) about the move and added that under "normal circumstances" it would have consulted more.

A spokeswoman for the firm added: "The changes are to safeguard jobs by allowing us time to recruit and train new drivers.

"These changes are not commercial decisions, they have been driven by a lack of available drivers as a result of the national shortage.

"These decisions were made quickly because we needed to react urgently, as we acknowledge that delivering an unpredictable level of service is not good enough for our customers.

"We would prefer to deliver a reduced frequency that will turn up rather than make promises we can’t deliver.

"Our drivers that are continuing to deliver a service are doing a great job."

The quality of public transport has been a bugbear for many local people for several years.

Trade Union Congress (TUC) officer Gareth Forest, who lives in Wakefield, said: "The reality is that services are terribly poor and that’s the reason people can’t rely on them.

"They can’t rely on them to get to work, or to get to family events, and this makes that worse.

"In the context of the climate emergency and a time when we should be encouraging people onto public transport, we're going in the wrong direction."

But Unite, who represent bus drivers in the district, said Arriva were right to make the changes in the interests of staff welfare.

The departure of EU workers after Brexit, pay and work-life balance have all been cited as factors in an exodus of drivers from the industry.

As a result, current staff have been working overtime and operators have struggled to meet their post-pandemic timetables.

Unite rep Phil Bown said: "I wouldn’t hesitate to criticise management where it’s warranted, but this is a situation not of their making.

"Unfortunately, we’ve got buses but not the staff to drive them."

"The training schools for drivers are open, but of course they’ve got to be run responsibly.

"You can’t just let anyone through, because these people are carrying the most precious cargo possible - our families and friends - and they need to be run safely."

That view tallies with comments made by the Confederation of Passenger Transport, who said there is "no shortage" of people wanting to become bus drivers, but that staff were leaving too quickly for new employees to keep up with demand.

They said a backlog at the DVLA and DVSA had led to delays in trainee drivers receiving the provisional licences they needed.

Coun Morley said the changes "put franchising up the agenda, so we can bring buses into public control".

West Yorkshire mayor Tracy Brabin has taken initial steps to start that process, in line with a manifesto pledge, but that's expected to take some time.

Discussing the changes at a climate change scrutiny meeting on Monday, senior council officer Mark Lynam said: “It’s impossible for us to intervene as the public sector.

"Arriva are a privately run company and so if they choose to cut services, they have the ability to do it.

"Franchising would offer us more control over where these services are run and particularly where there’s low usage, but the people in those areas have no alternatives."

Morley, Dewsbury and Huddersfield have also been hit by the changes announced, which are listed below.

The Five Towns and Hemsworth areas have remained largely untouched.

A revised timetable on the X80 between Castleford and Leeds University is the only change affecting these areas.

Changes to Arriva services (to take effect from October 25)

100 - Wakefield – Eastmoor: This route is revised to operate via College Grove Road and Queen Elizabeth Road in both directions.

101 - Wrenthorpe – Wakefield: This service is extended to Stanley, partly replacing service 103.

102 - Healey – Ossett – Lupset – Wakefield – Eastmoor: Additional journeys are introduced to partly replace service 104 between Wakefield and Eastmoor

103 - Stanley – Wrenthorpe – Wakefield: This service is withdrawn and partly replaced by service 101 between Potovens and Stanley, and service 118 between Wakefield and Junction 41 Industrial Estate.

104 - Alverthorpe – Wakefield – Eastmoor: This service is withdrawn and partly replaced by additional journeys on service 102 between Wakefield and Eastmoor, and additional journeys on service 212 between Wakefield and Alverthorpe.

106 - Wakefield – Belle Isle – Kettlethorpe – Crigglestone – Hall Green: This is a new service operating between Wakefield, Kettlethorpe and Hall Green, running up to every 15 minutes Monday to Saturday daytime, up to every 30 minutes Sunday daytime and up to every 30 minutes each evening.

107 - Wakefield – Thornes – Calder Park – Durkar – Newmillerdam – Kettlethorpe: Additional evening and Sunday journeys are introduced between Wakefield and Durkar, partly replacing service 109.

108 - Wakefield – Durkar – Crigglestone – West Bretton – Yorkshire Sculpture Park: Minor changes are made to the timetable throughout the winter to reflect the winter opening times of Yorkshire Sculpture Park.

109 - Wakefield – Durkar – Kettlethorpe – Crigglestone – Hall Green: The evening and Sunday only service is withdrawn and replaced by additional journeys on service 107 between Wakefield and Durkar, and new service 106 between Wakefield, Kettlethorpe and Hall Green.

110 - Leeds – Robin Hood – Lofthouse – Outwood – Wakefield: This route will be split into two services. The Leeds to Wakefield section will continue to run as service 110 up to every 10 minutes.

The Wakefield to Hall Green section will run as new service 106 up to every 15 minutes. From Sandal into Wakefield, the service will coordinate with the 195/196 to provide a bus every 7/8 minutes. Most journeys on service 106 will serve Hall Green.

112 - Kirkhamgate – Alverthorpe – Wakefield: This service is withdrawn and replaced by service 212.

117 - Leeds – White Rose – West Ardsley – Shaw Cross – Ossett – Wakefield: Minor timetable changes are introduced.

118 - Leeds – White Rose – Middleton – East Ardsley – Junction 41 – Outwood – Wakefield: Additional short journeys are introduced between Junction 41 Industrial Estate and Wakefield, partly replacing service 103. Together with 425/427 there will be a coordinated 15-minute service along Bradford Road in/out of Wakefield.

205 - Pudsey - Morley - Dewsbury: Because of the UK wide driver shortage, we have had to make the difficult decision to withdraw this service. Some replacement travel options are still available on the Arriva network:

• Dewsbury to Shaw Cross: 202/203

• Dewsbury to West Ardsley: 202/203 to Shaw Cross, then 117 to West Ardsley.

• Dewsbury to Morley: 213

• Morley to Tingley: 425/427

• Morley to West Ardsley: 425/427 to Tingley, then 117 to West Ardsley.

• Morley to Gildersome: 425/427

212 - Dewsbury – Dewsbury District Hospital - Batley – Alverthorpe - Wakefield: All 212 journeys will serve Arncliffe Road and Hayburn Road, replacing the 212A. Some journeys are diverted to serve Kirkhamgate and Marion Avenue, partly replacing service 112. Additional short journeys are introduced between Alverthorpe and Wakefield, partly replacing services 104 and 112.

231/232 - Minor timetable changes are introduced to improve punctuality, including a slightly later departure from Scissett Middle School on service 232S.

261 - Cleckheaton – Heckmondwike – Roberttown – Mirfield – Kirkheaton – Dalton – Huddersfield: Additional journeys are introduced between Huddersfield and Upper Heaton, replacing some 262 journeys.

University of Leeds – Leeds – Temple Green – Kippax – Castleford

A revised timetable is introduced to speed up journey times.

Local Democracy Reporting Service