End of an era as UK’s last conductors outside London face redundancy

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25 years after they were re-introduced, Stagecoach has brought to an end what is believed to be the last use of bus conductors outside London. The firm announced last week that after temporarily withdrawing crew operation on its Tayway 73 service at the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak, they will not be returning. The 73 runs up to every 10 minutes between Arbroath and Dundee’s Ninewells Hospital via Dundee city centre, using a fleet of route-branded Enviro400MMC hybrid double-deckers.

Conductors were introduced in 1985 when Strathtay Scottish took over the service, which had until deregulation been operated by Tayside Regional Council Daimler Fleetlines, as part of a joint venture with British Rail which provided standardised fares and provided details of all services in a shared timetable under the Tayway brand. Strathtay introduced a fleet of former London AEC Routemasters to operate the route. Strathtay became a part of Stagecoach following its acquisition of Frank Carter’s Traction Group in 2005. In 2014, Stagecoach undertook what proved to be an unsuccessful trial of two New Routemasters on the route. The ongoing coronavirus situation, along with the increasing use of mobile ticketing and cashless payments, has seen Stagecoach East Scotland take the decision not to return to using conductors, which it acknowledged were a well-loved part of the community.

A spokesperson for Stagecoach East Scotland said: “We’re pleased to continue offering regular and reliable services for our customers travelling across East Scotland. Following a review of our operations, we have made the decision not to re-introduce the conductor role on our 73 route.

This will have no impact on the operation of our bus services, and customers will still be able to buy their tickets as normal from the driver, or in advance via our website or app. We are strongly encouraging customers to use contactless payment wherever possible. This is consistent with the service we provide on our bus services across the rest of the country.

“We know our conductors on the 73 route have been a well-loved part of our community and a proud part of our history. However, as is the case with many organisations, we are taking very difficult but unavoidable decisions to manage the impact of Covid-19. At the same time, we are continuing to ensure the safety of our people and customers and running the bus service our communities need. We will continue to help our people through this uncertain period.”

Trade union Unite said it was a difficult and worrying period for the affected staff. Regional Officer David Lawson told Dundee’s Evening Telegraph: “Unite has been informed by Stagecoach East Scotland that 31 employees are at risk of redundancy on its 73 route. It goes without saying that this is a difficult and worrying period for the workforce but we will represent our members through the consultation period and we will work tirelessly to find alternative positions.”

 

Stagecoach’s Tayway 73 is believed to be the last provincial service to use conductors, but the operator has decided that they will not return after having been withdrawn at the start of the coronavirus outbreak. JONATHAN WELCH