Shropshire bus services 'could stop after Brexit' amid concerns over driver recruitment
Bus services in Shropshire could grind to a halt after Brexit day on March 29, an expert has warned.
Drivers employed from Eastern Europe have already started going home – and that exodus is expected to speed up when the UK finally leaves.
Bus drivers already exiting UK
The warning has been issued by Lynda Waltho, who is director for the Midlands for the Confederation of Passenger Transport covering Shropshire.
She said: “We are already feeling the effect of whether of not we are going to crash out.
“Lots of drivers are leaving the UK and firms are not able to recruit to replace them.
"A lot of Polish drivers are deciding to go.”
The looming bus driver shortage emerged as the Shropshire Star found that many businesses in the region are stockpiling products ahead of the UK’s exit from the European Union
Companies across the region say they are storing goods because of fears about queues at Britain’s ports, particularly if there is a no-deal Brexit.
Recruitment is now 'real issue'
Mrs Waltho also raised worries for the hospitality industry in the region, telling a business breakfast event for bosses across Shropshire, Staffordshire and the West Midlands that 47 per cent of its employees were from the EU and many were already leaving the UK.
She said she was now really concerned that the UK was going to crash out, adding: “It is not just the big boys in the passenger transport industry that are being hit.
“Many medium-sized and little firms with one or two routes, including coach businesses, just can’t get people.
“They really have relied heavily on European drivers. Recruitment is now a real issue for the industry here.
“If we crash out it is going to hurt people on the round in the West Midlands.
“There might not be enough people to drive the buses, which could mean people not getting to work.
And it could add to congestion on our roads with people driving to work instead if bus services are hit.”
The stockpiling issue is seeing some firms run out of their own storage space and they are having to spend on hiring extra space.
Paul Kalinauckas, chief executive of Wolverhampton-based BCRS Business Loans, told the Wolverhampton meeting that he was concerned that details of the UK Shared Prosperity Fund, which is to replace EU sources of funding, were still to emerge.