KCC Public Transport: Briefing note
29 September 2021
Driver shortages, fuel supply and Home to School transport.
You will be aware from coverage in the National press that the transport industry is currently suffering with a significant shortage of skilled drivers caused by the combined impacts of Brexit and the pandemic. Much of the media attention has focused on the HGV and delivery sector and the impacts on the supply of goods but the Public Transport sector is equally affected which is impacting on our bus, coach and taxi operators.
In respect of buses, operators have seen a significant number of drivers leave the industry and efforts to replace them are being delayed owing to a backlog to process license applications through the DVLA.
The same issue caused instances of Petrol Stations where fuel supply was adversely affected. However, motorists queuing for petrol has exacerbated this issue and we are now all aware of the challenges being faced to get fuel and our Transport providers are being confronted with exactly the same issues.
All of Kent’s transport providers are reporting pressures with driver and Transport Assistant resource but most are managing to sustain service levels for the time being.
However, Arriva operations in Maidstone and to a lesser degree Northfleet are being directly and adversely affected and customers are experiencing reliability issues with services, including some problems affecting school journeys.
In respect of fuel, some of our major operators hold bunkered stocks and have direct supply lines that we hope will sustain service until the supply chain and purchasing patterns settle. However, the majority of our providers get their fuel from the pump and therefore are experiencing the same challenges as the public not helped by the added problem of getting bus and coach sized vehicles onto congested Petrol Station Forecourts.
Our Transport providers are working incredibly hard to source fuel but some services are already being affected.
Public Transport Officers have been working closely with all operators throughout the pandemic.
KCC have asked all its Transport Providers to;
- Prioritise the provision of school transport and bus services operating in rural areas
- Carefully Monitor Fuel Levels and not to operate morning journeys if they are concerned that they will not be able to return children home at the end of the day.
- Liaise with Schools and Parents, providing advance notice of service disruptions where possible.
To support local bus operations, KCC are contracting some temporary cover for school day operations in Maidstone and others parts of the County. KCC have also supported some reduction in service levels in the off peak on some higher frequency services which is helping to prioritise the reliable operation of school services whilst driver recruitment and training can take place and until we hopefully some greater calm in respect of fuel supplies.
Despite the efforts of our transport providers and the support that KCC are trying to provide, we do understand that services have been impacted. The measures being put in place will start to stabilise the driver position in the next few weeks.
The impact of the fuel situation is much harder to predict and we will continue to monitor and update you as necessary.
This does unfortunately mean that a continued impact on service provision is likely in the immediate future.
KCC and its transport providers are aware that this will be causing significant issues for transport users and schools and are making every effort to find solutions. Please bear with our transport providers whilst we work through this incredibly difficult period.