Stagecoach calls councillors comments over Northampton's buses 'inaccurate and unfair'

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Vehicles hired to keep key workers moving during Covid were returned last year, says company

Stagecoach bosses insist councillors branding Northampton bus services “appalling” is “inaccurate and unfair’.

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Stagecoach responded in a statement saying the comments are "not representative of the services we provide."

Stagecoach bosses say Cllr Phil Larratt's claims it is using 'rubbish' buses on Northampton routes are "inaccurate"Stagecoach bosses say Cllr Phil Larratt's claims it is using 'rubbish' buses on Northampton routes are "inaccurate"
Stagecoach bosses say Cllr Phil Larratt's claims it is using 'rubbish' buses on Northampton routes are "inaccurate"

Councillor Phil Larratt, who holds the transport portfolio for Conservative-run West Northamptonshire Council, and opposition councillor Keith Holland-Delamere pointed to a issues with cancellations, deteriorating maintainence of buses, driver recruitment and retention.

Cllr Larratt added: “How many times do I see former Lothian buses polluting Northampton because they take their good buses and put them elsewhere and we end up with the rubbish.”

But Stagecoach insisted the last of a number of vehicles it hired from Scotland to bolster its fleet during the Covid-19 pandemic were returned more than a year ago.

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It said: “Cllr Phil Larratt’s comments about ex-Lothian buses are, regrettably, inaccurate.

“Stagecoach hired in extra buses during 2020-21 in order to provide extra capacity for social distancing during the height of the covid pandemic, supporting customers and key workers making necessary and essential journeys.

“We returned these buses to their owner as social distancing restrictions were removed in the summer of 2021.

“To receive apparent criticism for responding positively to the needs of key workers and customer needs at that time now is disappointing and shows a lack of understanding about the contribution of Stagecoach to the bus services in West Northamptonshire.”

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Stagecoach admits has been battling staffing issues for around 18 months, leading to daily cancellations on town routes.

It says a number of changes due to start on October 30 will help provide a more “robust and reliable” service.

But it added: “Our 27 colleagues in our engineering team work incredibly hard to maintain our fleet of 96 buses in the region to the highest possible standards and do an outstanding job.

"The majority of delays and disruption to our services is not caused by driver shortage or mechanical issues but by congestion on the highway network resulting from the many roadworks taking place.

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“WNC has targeted improvements in how roadworks are communicated and planned to minimise the impact on bus users.

“We continue to look forward to WNC delivering on these plans to help us deliver more consistent journey times and improved services for our customers.”

Stagecoach says its vehicles lost less than 0.06 percent of mileage due to vehicle breakdowns last year out of the 4.6 million miles operated annually.

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It's statement added: "There is a national driver shortage which is affecting Stagecoach, as it is all operators locally and nationally.

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“We are the first to recognise that this has resulted in disruption to customers journeys and we are sorry that this has been the case.

“We are continuing to recruit staff to the fill the vacancies we have as quickly as possible.

“Despite the challenges caused by a national shortage of drivers, we are continuing to operate more than 97 percent of the journeys scheduled in Northamptonshire.”