Oswestry bus depot facing closure after Arriva finances 'hit hard' by pandemic

A bus depot is facing closure after transport bosses said it is not financially sustainable.

Arriva has announced that it is consulting with employees on closing its Oswestry depot, saying the loss-making base has been "hit hard" by the change of travel behaviours since the Covid pandemic. The firm has said it cannot comment on how many jobs could be lost during the consultation period.

It comes after a multi-million pound Shropshire Council bid for Levelling Up cash was snubbed by the Government in favour of other projects.

The move would see the shutting of the depot, though Arriva say customer journeys would be "largely unaffected" with the main bus routes operated from the Oswestry site transferring across to the firm’s Shrewsbury and Wrexham depots.

Arriva says its bus users in Shropshire are taking just 54% of journeys travelled prior to the pandemic. It says this post-pandemic recovery is far below national trends and comes alongside a challenging combination of significant industry-wide cost inflation. The firm also says funding support from the local authority falls "significantly below" the levels provided by other councils to reimburse “concessionary travel” meaning bus services have been operating at a sustained operating loss.

Arriva says that despite extensive interventions to attempt to boost passenger numbers, including engagement with Shropshire Council to address the situation, "regretfully" it has not been possible to return the depot to a financially sustainable operation and affected employees have been notified of the consultation to close the Oswestry site.

If the proposal goes ahead, Arriva will cease to operate some local contracted bus services in the area and is in dialogue with the local authority with the expectation that a new operator would take on these contracted services from May.

Affected employees have now been notified that a consultation is underway on closing the site.

An Arriva spokesman said: “We are saddened to announce today that we are consulting with our valued employees about the closure of our Oswestry depot.

“While there would be very limited impact on customer journeys, closing depots is not a decision we take lightly and this only follows sustained and extensive interventions to attempt to turn around the losses in Shropshire.

“Our priority throughout this process is that everything runs as smoothly as possible, for both our customers and our high valued team.

“If the proposal goes ahead, Arriva will work with Shropshire Council and any new operators as school routes transition to new suppliers, with any changes to school services not expected until May.”

Arriva runs the following contracted bus services on behalf of Shropshire Council which, if the proposal is confirmed, are expected to transfer to a new operator: 449 Oswestry – Welshampton, 54 Oswestry - Cefn Y Blodwel, 71 Oswestry - Four Crosses, 79a Oswestry – Porth-Y-Waen, and the 405 Oswestry – Windsor Road.

A Shropshire Council spokesman said: “Arriva have notified us of their wish to cease operating the 449, 54, 71 and 405 bus services.

“As a result we will shortly begin a competitive tendering process to find a new operator for these services.”

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