A pay rise for bus drivers has been welcomed as a key step to help fill the over 100 vacancies for bus drivers in the West of England.

New First bus drivers will see their base pay going up from over £24k to just over £27k.

One of the issues driving cancellations and timetable changes in recent months has been a driver shortage. Covid and bus drivers being “poached” to be HGV lorry drivers have been cited as causes.

The new pay deal will also help existing drivers deal with the cost-of-living crisis. Drivers at First depots in Hengrove, Lawrence Hill, the central bus station in Bristol, Weston-super-Mare, Bath and Wells all supported the proposal.

The West of England Combined Authority is also working with First in supporting skills training to help people into the bus industry.

Metro Mayor Dan Norris said: “This is part of the solution to tackle one of the long-term challenges on buses – the serious driver shortage. I welcome this plan and praise the hard work from both First bus and Unite to reach this agreement. We must do all we can to recruit and retain drivers: they are vital key workers and we need more of them. There is no way we can meet our ambitious net-zero targets or make buses work better for passengers without them. With steps like this, the West of England is stepping up and tackling this challenge head on”.

First Bus Managing Director Doug Claringbold said: “The pay offer agreed with Unite members is part of a wider series of measures to make bus driving a hugely attractive and rewarding career, including flexible shifts to fit better around people’s lives. We are working with the Metro Mayor and his team to help give everyone the skills and the opportunity they need to join us through full, paid training. For more information about the opportunities as a driver at First please go to our website at where you will find everything you need”.

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