As part of a package of cost-cutting measures, Reading Buses has announced that up to 33 jobs will be lost in various departments across the company.
The whole industry has been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic, and Reading Buses is no exception; at one point, passengers numbers on its network fell to lower than 10% of normal levels.
With changes to service levels, the use of the Job Retention (furlough) scheme and some government funding, the company has been able to continue to provide a service for key workers from the start of the pandemic and, as restrictions have been eased, increase to a more-or-less normal service.
However, whilst customer numbers are growing back slowly, the company predicts an uncertain period ahead and has created a plan to ensure that it can continue to provide the right level of service for Reading and the surrounding area.
Robert Williams, Reading Buses’ Chief Executive Officer, commented: “Like many others, we have been constantly using the word ‘unprecedented’ to describe the situation we have found ourselves in. With hugely reduced customer numbers and changes to the way we operate, it has been a difficult period to get through.
“Our fantastic team have worked incredibly hard to ensure we could continue to run a service for key workers from the outset, but also that we could scale up later for everyone else, as leisure and tourism centres began to open up.
“However, the industry as a whole is suffering. Once the pandemic is over and things return to ‘normal’ we expect that some people will continue in their current pattern of using other modes of transport, working from home and internet shopping – all of which will see an ongoing reduction in both customer numbers and revenue.
“If we continue to operate with the same costs whilst waiting for customers to return, it will result in the company no longer being economically sustainable.
“It is for this reason that we have constructed a plan to allow Reading Buses to continue to serve the people of Reading and the local area by reducing as many costs as possible.”
The headline figures are:
- Up to 33 positions in the company at risk – although no driver redundancies are currently expected;
- A freeze on new recruitment, including apprenticeships;
- A freeze on investment in new vehicles; and
- New ways of working for existing staff.
“It is probable that these will not be the only changes needed as we begin to look forward into the ‘new normal’ future,” added Robert. “We do not take any of these decisions lightly and have tried to avoid redundancies for as long as possible.
“It is imperative that we continue to regain customer confidence so maintaining our current service level is a priority. The environmental impact of using private transport is huge, so we hope that many more customers return to our buses over the coming days and weeks as things return to normal.
“Our buses are clean, safe and good to go for people wanting to return to their commute or access retail and leisure facilities.”