436 bus service – good news for Much Wenlock? Bad news for bus drivers?

In August, just five months ago, Shropshire Council put the 436 Shrewsbury-Bridgnorth route out to tender. The incumbent operators were Arriva, who had stepped in at short notice after independent operator GHA went bust.

The successful tenderer was “The Skiers Lodge Ltd”, operating under the easyCoach brand. Whilst any operator is likely to encounter teething troubles when embarking on a new route, there were a significant number of complaints about buses being very late or not turning up at stops at all in the first couple of months. Shropshire Council subsidises this route, but can’t deal with service failures without knowing about them, and I encouraged you to provide details to Shropshire Council if you encountered problems.

Local bus users also told me about:

  • Buses not running to schedule and missed connections,
  • Missed stops and passengers waiting in the wet and cold,
  • Breakdowns,
  • Running out of fuel…,
  • Lack of information,
  • Disillusioned and allegedly unpaid drivers,
  • Old buses and general unreliability

This is plainly unacceptable and is likely to have the effect of putting more cars on the road with all the consequences of congestion, pollution, parking etc.

I’ve exerted considerable pressure to resolve the issue although hitherto my efforts have been frustrated by contractual safeguards. These don’t seem to have safeguarded passengers’ justifiable expectations of a reliable service.

After pressing the Council’s Passenger Transport Commissioning Group for weeks about the manner in which Much Wenlock folk are badly served, I learned today that easyCoach are throwing in the towel tomorrow, 30th December. From 2nd January Arriva will again be operating this service.

New operator for 436 Shrewsbury to Bridgnorth bus service from Tuesday 2 January

While this is hopefully good news for travellers in the short-term, I doubt that Arriva are providing this service at the same rate at easyCoach. It therefore seems to me likely that at some point in  the future the service will be re-tendered. I am determined to find what safeguards can be written into any new contract to avoid a repetition of the lamentable service we have experienced for the past five months. We must also bear in mind that drivers’ jobs may well be in jeopardy as a result of this move, so good news for passengers may be bad news for the employees.