A BUS operator stressed it is keen to put on extra services following ‘complaints’ about passengers not being able to get on packed vehicles.
Despite restrictions easing in Wales, a number of passengers – who travel on the number 12 service between Rhyl and Llandudno – have got in touch with the Journal and Pioneer to say they continue to be left ‘stranded’ at bus stops.
Arriva Buses Wales is operating a limited network which has put in place in response to Covid-19.
A spokesperson for the company said they are in ‘frequent dialogue’ with representatives of the Welsh Government, have expressed concerns and issues being experienced, and are awaiting an outcome to enable an increase in their bus network.
One passenger, who asked not to be named, said: “Arriva Buses Wales is still only running one bus an hour from between Rhyl and Llandudno with a maximum capacity of only 29 seated passengers due to social distancing.
“I’ve been stranded three times and have had to resort to cycling 32 miles a day to my job in Llandudno as a support worker.”
“I live in Rhyl. The buses are so unreliable, I have no option but to cycle.
“You could say they can wait an hour for the next bus but now that places are getting busier, who is to say the next bus won’t be full to capacity and again leave people stranded?”
A bus driver, who also asked not to be named, shared his reaction and how ‘embarrassing’ it is to have to drive past passengers.
“It is upsetting, embarrassing and depressing for drivers knowing these people have done a full day or nights work, up to 12 hours some of them,” he said.
“We have to drive past them at bus stops because are legal capacity is reached.
“We have asked about ramping up the service and Arriva have kept us informed about the lack of funding from the Welsh Government to put more buses in service.”
He added: “We have about 20 drivers in service at the moment compared to about 140.”
“We all enjoy our jobs. We have all made friends with the public and we are finding it very stressful having to leave these people at the bus stops.
“The bus capacity for a double decker is 35 people. Because the Welsh Government has opened Wales to holidaymakers this has put enormous strain on the buses.
“Holidaymakers are using buses and are stopping people getting to and from work.
“Many drivers, both male and female, have been left verbally abused and threatened for example, when we ask people to wear face coverings and two, when we have to stop people entering the bus when at full capacity.”
Another passenger, Jackie, shared her experience.
She said; “If I go to catch 4.28pm and it’s full, the next one is an hour after. If that one is full then it is usually the last one home is at 6.28pm.
“Drivers are saying that currently it is the Welsh Government paying Arriva to run buses so my argument is that the company should start putting money back in – we are all paying our money for bus tickets.”
Another passenger, known only as Allison, said she travels on the 12 service 10 times a week.
Allison, who lives in Towyn, said she feels ‘unsafe’ travelling on the bus.
“All the seats are available for anyone to sit on apart from four and people can get up and down off the seats many times on a journey.
“No one cleans the seats or the hand rail or bells. People take their masks off once they are on the bus.
“I did ask a bus driver why everyone is not wearing a mask and his reply – ‘sick of asking them to put them on’
“I travel on the number 12 bus and was travelling to work on it, but the past week I have had to cycle as the bus feels too full for my liking and the fact it is only once an hour.”
A spokesperson for Arriva Buses Wales said: “Arriva is operating a limited network currently which was put in place in response to the covid situation. This limited network has been supported by funding from the Welsh Government – on the basis of primarily getting key workers to and from work. We are grateful for this support and without it, it is likely that the network would have been far more limited than currently and many services would have been suspended.
“More recently the Welsh Government has eased some elements of the lockdown and that has encouraged people to return to the bus network and this has put significant strain onto the network.
“Arriva and other bus operators have been in discussions with the Welsh government over a number of weeks and months about securing additional funding to support the enhancement of the capacity on the network – in England and Scotland this support has already been provided to bus operators which has enabled a ramp up of services there.
“We are in frequent dialogue with representatives of the Welsh government expressing concerns and issues we are having and are awaiting an outcome to enable an increase in our bus network.”
A Welsh Government spokesperson said: “We continue to discuss how to provide safe, convenient public transport with operators and passenger groups.
“Face masks will be mandatory on public transport from next Monday in recognition of the difficulties of physical distancing. We will update wider guidance in time for that change.”
The Welsh Government added that although travel restrictions are being lifted, residents should only travel by public transport if their journey is essential.