Buses in chaos

BUS company bosses have apologised to passengers stranded when transport failed to turn up.

Irate members of the public complained of waiting at bus stops across the district when many services run by First Bus didn't show.

People were annoyed after being late for work, late to pick up children from school and missing medical appointments because buses didn't arrive on time.

The country's biggest bus operator has blamed driver sickness for some services not running to the published timetable.

And management has revealed they are bringing in drivers from Eastern Europe to fill the gaps.

Earlier this year, the bus company was under fire for poor service. On that occasion, engineers from Eastern Europe were brought in to help repair the bus fleet.

But the latest round of delays and missing buses has left passengers fuming.

Camelon woman Pamela Grogan said the 8.15 a.m. No. 4 service from Ochiltree to Grangemouth failed to turn up so often that she was on an official warning from her employers over timekeeping.

She said: "We are constantly being told to take public transport and leave the car at home. That is well and good if the advertised bus service works. But, in this town, not only is the service appalling it is one of the most expensive in Scotland."

A member of the medical staff at Falkirk Royal Infirmary told of waiting 40 minutes for a bus outside the hospital after her shift.

And a Dunipace mum was frantic when several buses didn't show, forcing her nine-year-old daughter to sit on the doorstep waiting for her.

The mum said: "I finish work in Falkirk at 2.30 p.m. and should catch a bus 10 minutes later which has me home in plenty time for my daughter coming out of school at 3.15 p.m. But recently the bus didn't turn up until 3.20 p.m. which left her waiting alone. The service just isn't good enough."

A spokesperson for First in Scotland East said delivering a reliable, quality service was a priority. They added: "Our drivers are key to delivering this service and we have unfortunately been experiencing some significant driver shortages in recent weeks. This was due to higher than usual levels of sickness.

"Last week in our Larbert depot, we were seven drivers short due to illness and, while we always have drivers in training to cover for staff shortages, we were hit recently by unusually high levels of absence.

"We would like to apologise to any passengers who have been affected by this issue. We wish to reassure them that we now have additional drivers in place and more in training who will be starting in service in the next few weeks."

The spokesperson added: "While our focus is generally to recruit from the local marketplace, First is also bringing in drivers from Eastern Europe to assist. These drivers begin with our driver training centre in Poland, before being assigned to a depot in Scotland."

j.buchanan@falkirkherald.co.uk