REDDITCH bus station came to a halt on Wednesday afternoon after drivers refused to take the wheel over claims the company plans to make them work longer hours.
Passenger Amanda Tremlett, who was caught up in the stoppage said: “I was waiting for the No64 to Greenlands. I arrived in good time and waited and waited – no bus. I telephoned the depot and was told a bus would be along in a minute, but 15 minutes later still no bus.
“There was a load of drivers hanging around and I asked what was going on and they said they weren’t driving because they were being made to work longer shifts.
“I’m all right, but there were pensioners there with all their shopping and relying on the bus to get home,” said the mum of two.
Mrs Tremlett then went up to the bus depot in Church Road to complain: “I was told I was wasting my breath as the drivers had all stood down,” she said.
When the Redditch Standard investigated it found drivers back at the wheel but angry at company efforts to make them work longer hours.
In claims denied by Diamond Buses, one driver, who did not wish to be named, claimed some shifts, with breaks, last from 7am to 9pm.
“They are asking us to work too long and we are worried that it is not safe,” he said.
The law states that a bus driver must take a break of at least 45 minutes after driving no more than 4.5 hours with a maximum driving time of nine hours.
Readers have been vociferous in their complaints about Diamond Buses in our letters pages; one even suggesting that a driver appeared to fall asleep while others have spoken of buses arriving late, not turning up and ‘mystery tours’ by lost drivers.
A spokesperson for Diamond Buses said: “The safety of our customers and staff is the number one priority of Diamond Bus Ltd.
“We would not permit drivers to work hours outside of the regulatory framework, our drivers are subject to maximum driving periods and minimum rest periods, which can’t be overridden.
“We have been working to develop a network based on customer feedback and dealt with some of the issues raised by customers which has necessitated a change in the way drivers are planned.
“This has met with some resistance, however, we are currently in discussions with drivers, supported by trade union representatives, so that drivers fully understand the reason why we have made the changes.”
She added that the company and union officials were working in a co-operative way to resolve any issues.