I recently met the head of First Bus Essex to discuss the situation on Chelmsford buses. Constituents may know that I was very concerned about our bus service even before the pandemic and have long wanted a more reliable and affordable bus service. During the pandemic the government has put extra funding into bus companies to help them with lost revenue.
Passenger numbers are now at about 60percent of pre-pandemic and the company is scheduled to run about 90percent of pre pandemic services. However they are still short of drivers and are having to do “pre-planned” cancellations of about 4percent of services. The “pre-planned” nature means that they try to spread out cancellations so that there are not large gaps in services. Please do use the App to plan ahead as this should give the most accurate times.
The company lost a significant number of drivers in the Chelmsford area in the autumn. This was partly people retraining to become HGV drivers and some moving on to other jobs. They have recruited enough drivers to make up the numbers but training does take time. They are currently training about 6 new drivers each week and this means driver numbers should be resolved by around the end of March. I have offered to contact the DVLA about some drivers who are awaiting DVLA clearance.
Unfortunately the company is not breaking even. Therefore they have increased the fares for single journeys, but if you are doing return trips or multiple journeys in the week do use the “TAP and CAP” as this will save you money.
Some recent roadworks have also caused problems - especially for the 31 route- and when there is a traffic jam on Parkway this can cause big delays. I’ve written to the county council to ask them to look at yellow hatch boxes at the Odeon roundabout and Army and Navy as the bus company think this could make a difference.
I’m sorry this is not great news but I did want to keep people informed. Please do email me about individual issues or specific routes.