Up to 33 redundancies are to be made by Reading Buses as part of a wider cost-saving exercise brought on by continuing uncertainty in the bus industry.
The operator says that a slow recovery of passenger numbers, combined with an end to the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme later this year and no guarantee that customer habits will return to normal in the long term, mean that the company must make changes if it is to survive. It does not rule out taking further steps to reduce costs later.
No redundancies among Reading Buses driving staff are expected. However, as part of its plan to ensure a sustainable future, the operator will also introduce a freeze on recruitment, including apprenticeships; a freeze on investment in new vehicles; and “new ways of working for existing staff.”
Says Chief Executive Officer Robert Williams: “It is probable that these will not be the only changes needed as we begin to look forward into the ‘new normal’ future. We do not take any of these decisions lightly and we have tried to avoid redundancies for as long as possible.
“If we continue to operate with the same costs while waiting for customers to return, it will result in the company no longer being able to survive.”
Mr Williams adds that at the worst point of the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic, the operator’s passenger numbers dropped to below 10% of normal. The most recent data from the Department for Transport shows that across the UK, weekday patronage had recovered to no more than 33% of its pre-pandemic equivalent as of Monday 20 July.
“The industry as a whole is suffering,” continues Mr Williams. “Once the pandemic is over and things return to ‘normal’, we expect that some people will continue 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.”