Tram services slashed due to driver shortage

A tram operator has announced it is slashing its timetables due to a shortage of drivers.

Sheffield’s Supertram is reducing the frequency of its services by up to 50% from Sunday.

The operator’s managing director Tim Bilby said: “As with many industries across the country, driver shortages are having an impact on our services and we unfortunately need to make some temporary timetable changes to maintain the reliability of key services and keep passengers connected across our routes.”

Mr Bilby explained that the firm is “taking proactive steps to alleviate the situation by recruiting and training new drivers”, but the coronavirus pandemic has restricted training.

He added: “The gap between the number of drivers we currently have, versus what we need, is unusually high and cannot be filled until we are confident our new members of the team are trained and ready for the road.

“We will continue to monitor the situation with the intention of increasing services again as soon as we can.”

Supertram, which is owned by Perth-based Stagecoach, said “difficult challenges” during the past 18 months such as the pandemic and Brexit have resulted in a “driver shortfall of around 4,000” in the UK’s transport industry.

This is due to a combination of people leaving the sector, the ongoing effects of the virus crisis and a 55% increase in early retirement, the firm added.

A number of changes are being made to timetables on the Supertram network, including frequencies on the Purple route – one of four lines on the network – being reduced from a tram every 30 minutes to just one per hour.

The operator said 90% of overall services are being retained.

Meanwhile, First Glasgow has cancelled a number of bus services in the city due to driver shortages.

The operator said on its website: “We apologise for any inconvenience caused.

“Please do not take any issues out on our team who are at work and operating our other journeys – it’s not their fault.

“They, like everyone else, are trying their best to operate as good a service as possible.”