The Hull-based family-owned bus company, EYMS Group, has today announced, with great regret, plans to close its depot at Driffield to reduce its overhead costs following significant cuts in the funding the company receives from central and local governments.
All the routes currently operated from the depot will be reallocated to other EYMS depots with only very minor changes and the Company hopes that as many as possible of the current staff at Driffield can be found work elsewhere in the company as overall there will be no reduction in driver requirements.
An additional factor is that through no fault of the staff at Driffield, timekeeping on the depot’s main route, EYMS’ major trunk route 121 between Hull and Scarborough, has suffered badly in recent years from the lowering of many rural speed limits, increasing numbers of traffic signals, and delays caused by traffic congestion, slow-moving vehicles and roadworks. Basing the buses and drivers at the large depots at each end of the route instead of in the middle at Driffield will give better control by making it much easier to substitute buses and drivers when a journey runs late.
But the chief reason is financial. Only recently the East Riding of Yorkshire Council confirmed that it is to cut £240,000 a year from the money it pays to bus operators in the East Riding to carry passengers who travel free under the National Concessionary Travel Scheme and, as EYMS provides by far the majority of bus services in the East Riding, most of this money will be cut from the payment to EYMS for the 2014/2015 financial year and in the following years, with more reductions likely to follow.
In North Yorkshire which covers the northern section of route 121 route, that County Council is also proposing further reductions in the money it pays operators for the free travel scheme in the county and has already reduced significantly the money available for the bus routes which it currently supports directly,
EYMS says it is very reluctant to have to plan a depot closure, but by taking this action it would bring worthwhile overhead cost savings with only a very minor effect on the bus services themselves.
All the bus services currently operated by Driffield depot could in future be run from other EYMS depots at Hull, Bridlington Scarborough and Pocklington with only minor timing changes on some journeys. The only journeys to go would be a very small number of evening journeys on route 121 as they would be no longer be needed to get buses back to the Driffield depot from Hull or Bridlington.
Driffield is home to 15 buses and 33 staff, 28 of them drivers, and the Company says that jobs will be available at other depots for the vast majority of the staff if suitable travel or relocation arrangements can be made.
Consultations with the Union and staff representatives have started today and subject to these the depot could close by June.
EYMS Chairman, Peter Shipp, said “Many bus routes in other parts of the country have seen significant reductions and many have gone altogether over the last few years, but we have worked hard to maintain our services and have been prepared to accept very low profits in the face of increasingly difficult circumstances. So I am desperately sorry that we have finally had to take this step but it is vital that we do whatever we can to cut our overhead costs, and the work operated from Driffield depot can be accommodated at our other garages.”
“To make anything approaching this level of savings by cutting bus services would mean a significant loss of journeys and possibly even whole routes. We would reduce costs but we would also lose passengers and revenue and job losses would be inevitable. Making savings this way we cut overhead costs but we are able to maintain virtually all of the journeys currently operated by Driffield depot, although I cannot rule out the possibility of bus service cuts elsewhere in future given the scale of the funding issues we are facing.”
“However we have given staff an assurance that we are certainly not considering any other depot closures.”
“In 2012 the Government cut the grant which has been paid to bus operators since the sixties to offset fuel duty. This has reduced EYMS income by £600,000 each year since then and it is just not possible to absorb all these large funding cuts without taking some fairly serious action.”
“A major factor in all this is the National Concessionary Travel Scheme. It is great scheme for getting people out and about on buses and is very useful for older and disabled people who would otherwise be unable to get to essential services, but from the start in 2008 the scheme has been seriously underfunded. The incredibly complicated reimbursement formula, which we believe is seriously flawed and is changed each year by the Department for Transport, means that the payment made to bus operators by the local authorities who administer the scheme in each area has been reduced almost every year, and coupled with other funding cuts this is simply not sustainable. I think the scheme should remain free but it is vital that operators are properly reimbursed”.
“The local authorities in our area have been very supportive and I have no doubt that they would prefer not to make these funding cuts but we all know they are under pressure and suffering big reductions in their budgets. It is just a great pity that bus services, which are a lifeline for many, are not given more priority especially by central government.”
East Yorkshire Motor Services has had a presence in Driffield since the Company was formed in 1926 and the present depot was built in 1958 to replace the former garage premises.
Peter Shipp added “It will be a very sad day when the depot closes. Over the years we have shut a few depots inherited from local bus operators EYMS has bought, when those operations have been absorbed into our existing garages, but this would be the first original EYMS depot to close. An independent report into the UK bus industry commissioned in 2012* said that buses have been more adversely affected by cuts to Government spending than other transport modes, and that the industry is facing its greatest financial challenge for a generation. I’m afraid this is just one regrettable result of those challenges”