Friday 21st June 2024,
North Yorks Enquirer

More Woes for ARRIVA

More Woes for ARRIVA

  • – an “In My View” article by NIGEL WARD, offering a (slightly) informed opinion on the woeful state of public transport in and around Whitby – and a worrying portent that things may be worse than they look.

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In recent weeks and months, it has been almost impossible for me to set foot outside of my house without being button-holed about the unreliability of ARRIVA buses to, from, in, and around Whitby and the surrounding area. The same topic consumes interest at formal meetings, too. Public and Council confidence in our local public transport system is at an all time low.

Many of my friends and acquaintances run businesses in Whitby and, given the ubiquitous shortage of staff, rely heavily on a transport system that they do not use – but many of their staff-members do.

Many of my friends and acquaintances want to visit loved ones in hospital in Middlebrough and Scarborough. Others go to work in those towns.

The kids have to get to and from school. (Executive Headteachers drive).

Against this backdrop, I received an alarming report from an anonymous middle-ranking member of ARRIVA management. My informant said:

“We’ve had VOSA in. They’ve found half the fleet unroadworthy and are threatening to pull our operator licence”.

Firstly, let me explain that the reference to VOSA (the Vehicle & Operator Services Agency – now superseded by the Driver & Vehicle Standards Agency) provided a a route through which I could check on the veracity of the report. So I wrote to the DVSA to enquire about the foregoing, in the following vein:

“The report suggests that the DVSA has placed ARRIVA on notice in respect of roadworthiness inadequacies with a significant proportion of the ARRIVA bus fleet operating in parts of North Yorkshire and Redcar & Cleveland.

The report indicates that this may impact on public transport availability in these areas – a matter of conspicuous public interest.

Please confirm (or deny) the material substance of this report, with adequate clarification, by my press deadline of 17:00h tomorrow, Wednesday 14th June 2023.

I look forward to a timely and comprehensive response.”

[my emphasis in bold type – ‘roadworthiness inadequacies’]

Shortly thereafter, I received a second report from a member of the public who had overheard conversation between bus drivers at the Whitby Station.

So I followed up my earlier email, as follows:

“I note that you have neither acknowledged nor responded to my email of 18:04h yesterday, Tuesday 13th June 2023.

I am now able to confirm that I have received a second report entirely consonant with the report mentioned in my previous email.

In the interests of fairness, I have delayed the submission of my copy for 24 hours to allow the DVSA ‘Right to Reply’.

Please provide a statement for publication no later than 17:00h tomorrow, Thursday 15th June 2023.”

No response. Ominous silence.

Has ARRIVA been operating buses that fall below the required standards of roadworthiness? Are they inadequately maintained? Is that why they are so often late – or fail to show at all?

So I turned my attention to ARRIVA, thus:

May I respectfully draw your attention to the two emails, below, to the DVSA? You will see that I have been in receipt of two reports to the effect that the DVSA has intervened in ARRIVA’s bus services operating in parts of North Yorkshire and Redcar & Cleveland. This evening, I have received a third report to much the same effect.

Please note that I will be submitting an article for publication based on these reports at 17:00h tomorrow, Thursday 15th June 2023. I am happy to include any statement ARRIVA wishes to provide for publication in response to these reports. At the very least, I rely on you to confirm or deny the general substance of these reports.

I look forward to hearing from you as a matter of urgency.”

The two emails to the DVSA were included in my email to ARRIVA. The first of them specifically asked about roadworthiness inadequacies.

Small wonder, perhaps, that my email elicited a very prompt response from ARRIVA’s Sarah DANIELS – Communications Manager (External) – who very kindly provided the following statement for publication:

“Arriva works closely with officers from the Driver & Vehicle Standards Agency to ensure our vehicles are roadworthy.

If the agency highlights any issues, we always react swiftly and fix any problems.

In regard to these reports, any issues raised were quickly addressed and services in the areas affected were provided as normal and that continues to be the case.”

Readers may feel that this was intended to be reassuring. It reassured us, at least, that “issues raised” (we speak here of roadworthiness inadequacies, remember) were “quickly addressed” and that the DVSA’s intervention has not occasioned any disruption of services; ‘normal service’ prevailed.

However, Sarah did not directly deny the core substance of the reports made to me by concerned citizens – roadworthiness inadequacies.

So I responded to Sarah, asking:

“For clarity (and perhaps I am being obtuse), could you please confirm that there has indeed been an ‘intervention’, subsequent to which matters have been resolved to the DVSA’s satisfaction? Thank you.”

Sarah’s response was very helpful:

“For guidance: a routine DVSA check was carried out, some issues were raised, they were quickly addressed and our bus services were provided as normal. DVSA checks for all vehicles are not rare.”

In short, my three sources were bang on the money; “Some issues were raised”. Were they roadworthiness inadequacies?

The subtle – but vital – distinction between ARRIVA’s buses running “as normal” (as Sarah DANIELS assures us) and them running “as scheduled will escape few of ARRIVA’s passengers.

I have drawn these exchanges to the attention of North Yorkshire Council’s Corporate Director of Environment, Karl BATTERSBY. The Council, as transport authority, has been reviewing its policies.

The scary thing about roadworthiness issues is that they may cause more than delays – they may risk lives.

. . . and property:

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