Driver shortages could see bus routes cut - MP

Holt, rural bus poic.1of2 28 2 00. Sam Robbins

There are fears rural bus routes cold be under threat from a lack of drivers - Credit: Sam Robbins

Rural bus routes could be under threat from a shortage of drivers. an MP has warned.

Duncan Baker said leisure and hospitality businesses in his North Norfolk constituency were also struggling to recruit staff.

"Rural transport is a lifeline for many people," he said. "Some of our routes are in danger of being cut because of driver shortages."

Mr Baker said replacing drivers who were retiring had been made difficult by delays in the testing process. 

He added: "I'll be talking to the transport secretary and asking what they can do." 

Duncan Baker, Conservative candidate in North Norfolk. Picture: SUPPLIED BY THE CANDIDATE

Duncan Baker, Conservative candidate in North Norfolk. Picture: SUPPLIED BY THE CANDIDATE - Credit: Archant

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Mr Baker said Covid had made many workers re-think their lifestyles and make a career change.

He said people were "revisiting their lifestyle", with chefs walking away from long hours in hot kitchens to take on other jobs which paid the same and allowed them to take weekends off, such as becoming delivery drivers for online retailers.

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"There's been a real paradigm shift with what people want to do with their lifestyles," he said. 

Mr Baker said he would be setting up a forum to discuss the issues with hospitality businesses in his constituency.

Nationally, one in five workers have quit the sector during the pandemic according to industry bodies.

Mr Baker said he had raised the issue with work and pensions secretary Therese Coffey, who has also been told of leisure businesses in Devon and Cornwall facing similar problems.

In an e-mail to constituents, North West Norfolk MP James Wild said he had met with the National Farmers Union following a report highlighting more than 500,000 vacancies across food and drink businesses.

"I know from firms in North West Norfolk that these shortages are putting pressure on farm business and the supply chain," he added. "I’ve previously supported expanding the seasonal agriculture workers scheme, and including non-edible horticulture, while industry invests in increased automation and will again be pressing ministers to put in place measures to alleviate these pressures and consider seriously the proposals the sector has developed." 

* We are running a series of special reports mover the next few days on the shortage crisis and the impact on the region and its people. 

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