Newcastle bus services cancelled as flu causes driver shortage

SERVICES have gone missing on some Newcastle bus routes, and the city’s new transport body says a bad flu season is partly to blame. 

Wallsend MP Sonia Hornery said her office had received numerous complaints about buses simply not arriving in line with the timetable. 

Ms Hornery’s office confirmed the routes included 100, 222, 225, 224, 267 and 230 services among others. 

Most run through suburbs including Wallsend, Shortland, Lambton, with many ferrying students to the University of Newcastle’s Callaghan campus.

“The western suburbs are once again being disrespected, despite residents being some of the biggest users of public transport in the Hunter,” Ms Hornery said. 

“[Passengers] have to navigate a range of different service operators, but the number of services failures in the area is beyond a joke.”

French company Keolis Downer won the tender to run Newcastle Transport, the body running most buses and ferries in the city, late last year. 

It took control on July 1 of most of the routes highlighted by Ms Hornery’s office, operating many but not all of the affected services.

Keolis Downer Hunter chief executive Campbell Mason said there had been no cut to services.

“On occasion, services need to be cancelled due to driver shortages,” Mr Campbell said.

”Of the hundreds of bus services provided for customers each day, only a very small number have been cancelled.”

Cancellations, which Mr Mason stressed were a “last resort” began with services where customers had the shortest waiting times. 

“Unfortunately this has been a particularly bad year for colds and flus, and more of our drivers than usual have called in sick,” Mr Mason said. 

The new transport body is increasing its workforce to compensate, Mr Mason said. 

“Six new drivers will be starting in the next fortnight and recruitment will continue in the coming months.”

The Newcastle Herald reported earlier this month that drivers were repeatedly underpaid after Keolis Downer took over. 

The company said it was “aware of the issues and immediately moved to rectify the situation”.