Promises to improve bus services in Sheffield 'not good enough' says city council leader Terry Fox

The leader of Sheffield City Council has promised to hold transport bosses’ ‘feet to the fire’ over service cuts - branding efforts so far ‘not good enough’.

Monday, 29th November 2021, 1:53 pm

Coun Terry Fox said he would hold regular meetings to ensure staff shortages were resolved and to ‘get this situation under control’.

He spoke out after calling an emergency meeting with First South Yorkshire boss Nigel Eggleton and Supertram managing director Tim Bilby over service cuts due to driver shortages.

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First Bus services in Sheffield.

First axed 130 bus journeys on Friday alone and has warned of more cuts in January. The firm has lost 180 drivers since June and despite recruitment is still 55 short of its full roster of 670, with 16 in training. Supertram is believed to have 10 driver vacancies out of a full complement of 103, with just four in training.

WHY DID POLITICIANS CALL AN EMERGENCY MEETING?

Cuts to services have prompted a wave of protests which stung politicians into angrily calling a meeting on Friday.

It came amid more public transport strife. Some 561 workers at the city’s other major bus company, Stagecoach, are on strike for a week over pay, until Saturday December 4.

Supertram managing director Tim Bilby

Coun Fox said: “It was really useful to get everyone round the table to discuss the ongoing public transport issues we're facing in Sheffield and the region. We had some very encouraging discussions and operators have given us their guarantees that everything is being done to get these issues resolved.

WHAT TRANSPORT GUARANTEES DID COUN TERRY FOX GET?

“As part of this we got guarantees that all routes will still be served, with a commitment for full coverage at peak times’. But this still clearly isn’t good enough. We’ll be meeting regularly with transport providers to hold their feet to the fire so that they’re doing everything they can to resolve their staff shortages, and get this situation under control.

Supertram services were reduced last month when boss Tim Bilby said: "Due to the impact of Covid restrictions on our ability to train, the gap between the number of drivers we currently have, versus what we need, is unusually high and cannot be filled until we are confident our new members of the team are trained and ready for the road."

“Sheffield isn’t getting the service it deserves. The council is doing everything we can to support the public transport network, but providers need to fulfil their end of our partnership.”

Politicians say passengers deserve better, pointing to the £20m of taxpayers’ cash they say operators have received to survive the pandemic.

Speaking exclusively to The Star last week, First boss Nigel Eggleton, warned problems could last until March.

Coun Terry Fox, Sheffield City Council leader, said he wanted to push home the anger and disappointment over disruption due to driver shortages.

WHY WAS THE BOSS OF FIRST BUS WARNING WORSE WAS TO COME?

He said: “Restoring services is highly unlikely before Christmas. We will be doing our very best to provide the maximum level of service throughout South Yorkshire.”

The company is planning to reduce up to nine evening services from half-hourly to hourly in January, he added.

Passenger numbers have plateaued at 74 per cent of what they were before the pandemic and government support runs out at the end of March, he added.

In the ‘unlikely’ event it was not extended there would ‘almost inevitably’ result in even more cuts, he added.

First South Yorkshire boss Nigel Eggleton has warned problems could last until March.

WHAT HAS CAUSED THE DRIVER SHORTAGE?

It is believed the driver shortage stems from July when Covid restrictions were lifted and drivers started to leave for jobs offering more leisure and family time.

Tim Bilby, Supertram managing director, said last week: “Our team are working incredibly hard and we are also taking proactive steps to alleviate the situation by recruiting and training new drivers. From this recruitment drive we have a strong pipeline of talented individuals currently going through our 10 week training programme.”

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