07 September 2022

Stagecoach Under Attack again

Stagecoach are back in the local news again…

Another council has slammed Stagecoach in Devon, describing its service as "not fit for purpose."

Mid Devon is the latest authority to criticise the company, agreeing to write to Devon County Council, the traffic commissioner and MPs to express concern at recent cuts and changes to routes.

The county council, along with Exeter and Teignbridge councillors, have also complained about Stagecoach in recent months. As a result, the firm has been summoned by the traffic commissioner to a public inquiry in October.

Stagecoach says a nationwide shortage of bus drivers means it has to concentrate on the most popular services. It is "working hard" to resolve the driver shortage and claims recent service changes are improving reliability "week by week."

At this week's full meeting of the council, a motion by Councillor Nikki Woollatt (Non Aligned, Cullompton North) calls for a review of recent cuts and to reinstate routes which are found to have had a "detrimental effect" on some groups


This will be dealt with my the Traffic Commissioner (TC) in October, but it follows on from a very recent PI into the accident in 2019 on the Gold service.

I wont go into detail of that accident here but a good article in Bus & Coach Buyer Magazine issue 1631 can be found HERE

If you want to read the full decision by the TC you can read it HERE (its an interesting read)

“The second issue is the reliability of registered bus services and associated applications to change service at short notice. The primary evidence for that matter was the report of DVSA Traffic Examiner Christopher Eggins. On 20 June 2022, that is two days before the hearing, I was written to by Cllr Andrea Davis of Devon County Council who raised fresh concerns in relation to the operator’s service reliability. I immediately sent a copy of that letter to the operator’s solicitor James Backhouse and indicated that I would take no account of it and would not deal with it until I had produced this decision. That was my intention”

its this second consideration that will be looked into in October so clearly the latest council complaints are not going to help.

My Opinion

It is a difficult one  as clearly Stagecoach are struggling to have enough drivers to cover their services, as is Plymouth Citybus and other operators. If they accept the fact that they dont have enough staff and reduce services to a level they can fully maintain then the councillors will quite rightly get angry and demand action so its a no win for the operators. You dont have to read many local news publications to see the same scenario being played out all over the country. There are often councillors demanding that the local authorities take over the services although quite how the authorities will then find enough drivers themselves remains unexplained. Of course the best way of getting and keeping drivers would be to pay them more – which would be very welcome by the drivers and many operators have increased drivers wages, but then someone has to pay the wages – and that means bus fares have to go up. You can imagine what the local councillors would have to say about that too!

One further consequence of the accident last year as that the operation of split services like Gold may have to be revised. The TC makes a very good point that the service is very clearly a single service in all but registration. But that could lead to additional expense as stricter rules apply to the longer services. So if the rules have to be applied differently in future then operators have a simple choice. Either accept the new more expensive rules or actually make the split more obvious so its clearly two different services and therefore make it less appealing or more confusing to passengers .

An added complication that's coming up are rather vague plans to introduce a maximum fare of £2 single for a short period of time in the new year (more to follow on this). If operators are struggling to provide enough drivers to maintain services at their present level then do they really want inflated passenger numbers for a few months if many of those ‘new’ passengers find their services are not turning up then they are hardly going to stick around when fares go back up.

Am I being pessimistic? what do people think?

Document Library
Stagecoach declared not fit for purpose in Mid Devon
Split Route was a single service
Decision from Public Enquiry

Stagecoach Devon 15961 YN14OWO


  1. Splitting the services was always a stupid idea, given we have supposedly "Brexited" I thought that rule along with no leather seating in new trains and the cookie bar would be gone but nope. I do agree with you that Stagecoach are struggling but they've been struggling for a long time, the accident which was in 2019 by the way not 2021 shows that. I think it's time Devon got it's proper bus service back #bringbackDevonGeneral

    1. you are right about it being in 2019 - I've corrected the error. thanks

    2. I believe that curtailing Gold to Paignton may just bring it under 50km/31 miles.

    3. I did wonder if that was the case. Not sure if its stilll registered as two services though. Not seen anything to say it isnt now

  2. The staffing situation wasn't helped in late July / early August when I understand that several drivers were seconded to assist with the contract to provide transport for the Commonwealth Games. I have some sympathy with Stagecoach here as they entered the contract for games transport some time ago (long before driver shortage was an issue) and the penalties for failing to deliver the contract were stiff. 

    However... I now understand that Stagecoach South West have posted a message to drivers asking them to cover driver shortages on contracted TfL services and are being offered incentives to move to London. Clearly routes in the capital are a higher priority for financial reasons.

    If true, this is only going to make the situation worse. Especially as frequencies in London are generally high and missed mileage might not be so significantly felt, compared with services in Devon where missing mileage is resulting in huge gaps in service (or in cases no service at all). 

    1. Stagecoach PLC as it then was entered into a formal agreement with us to provide passenger services for The Commonwealth Games. The contract was honoured end of story we have had few complaints about thier delivery so the company should be rightly praised for the excellent delivery of its sucessfull contract it seems many complaining about the company seem to quite simply as Kenneth Williams would say "Infamy Infamy they have all got it in for me" Here in Birmingham there are very few cancellations in our vast bus network in the City perhaps quite simply it's due to Rotala & National Express PLC are both locally owned as both have thier corporate headquarters within the West Midlands Combined Authority .

  3. The splitting of long local bus routes was an artificial creation, in order to comply with EU drivers hours regulations. I had hoped that, by now, this practice (which is confusing and off-putting to bus passengers) would have been consigned to the dustbin of unnecessary European regulations as a result of Brexit. I recall, at the time it was introduced into UK law, that long bus routes were a peculiarity to this country, as few routes in European countries run over 50km.

    Sadly this finding of the Traffic Commissioner appears not to move forward the relaxation of the split route rule. I think that it needs a campaign by operators (who have more urgent matters to attend to), or the bus operators' trade association to press for a change in this law.

  4. There are plenty of routes over 50km elsehwere in Europe. The difference from the UK is that there is no equivalent of Domestic regulations. Everything is under EU drivers hours, with tachographs as standard.

  5. A few of my colleagues have seen stagecoach buses on school contract work in east cornwall but as no fleet numbers unsure if it run from plymouth or bude

    1. Plymouth are running one School Contract to Looe Academy, and another to Launceston College. Tavistock are running the other School Contract from Trewint to Launceston College


Have something interesting to say? Please share it here!

(Moderation is currently switched on so please allow a short while before your comment appears on the site. This is only to cut down on spam - not to cut out people who disagree with me!)