Thames Valley bus route cuts: Company offers £2,500 bonus to lure in new drivers to combat shortage

  • Video report from ITV News Meridian's Carolyn Sim

Bus companies in the Thames Valley are being forced to cut services because of mass driver shortages.

The companies say the issue is caused by a number of problems, including staff returning to Europe after Brexit, the pandemic and retirement. A major campaign to recruit more drivers is underway, however there's concern it could delay services returning to pre-Covid levels.

In Bracknell, four routes have been suspended altogether after an exodus of 15% of drivers since September.

  • Robert Williams, CEO, Reading Buses and Thames Valley Buses

Other areas affected include Bracknell, Wokingham, Reading and Camberley.

Reading Buses and Thames Valley Buses chief executive Robert Williams said: "What we don't like doing is letting our customers down which is why we're being upfront by saying the for the next few months there will be a temporary timetable in the Bracknell area."

"This is so we can be reliable and our services turn up when we say they are going to."

"We always worry about letting our customers down but in terms of finding people I'm not worried its just the time it takes to recruit and train people so we can offer a safe, reliable and friendly service."

The bus driver shortage is compounded by other issues.

There is a hold-up getting new licences to new recruits at DVLA and many experienced staff are leaving the industry to get better pay elsewhere driving HGVs. 

To fill vacancies one company, Berkshire First, says it's offering a £2,500 bonus to join.

Attracting new drivers is a challenge right across the South.

  • Bus passengers react to the service cuts.

In Hampshire, an open day was held to give people an insight into the job. Those interested had the chance to apply to be a driver straight away.

The Department for Transport said they are "working closely with the sector to solve workforce issues by making 50,000 more bus, coach and HGV tests available each year."

But the big question is how to make the industry more appealing so that passengers can get on their way.