Where Sydney’s bus driver shortage is causing the most delays and cancellations
  Greg Sutherland


Bus services across Sydney have been plagued with delays and cancellations, leading to long queues of frustrated commuters after a shortage of drivers led to cuts to services.

The eastern suburbs, inner west and north shore are the hardest hit by the driver shortage. One in 10 B-Line buses to the northern beaches have also been cancelled during the morning peak https://www.9news.com.au/national/nsw-public-transport-cancelled-bline-bus-services-leaving-northern-sydney-passengers-stranded/ed30aef6-e8ff-48da-8cc4-64a23d50b915 in the past six months.

A reduction in bus services triggered by a shortage of drivers has caused disruption to commuters across Sydney.

A reduction in bus services triggered by a shortage of drivers has caused disruption to commuters across Sydney.Credit:Louise Kennerley

Lane Cove Council has established a reporting system for late and cancelled buses after complaints from teachers and parents about children being late for school.

The driver shortages prompted the NSW government to make temporary service changes in January by cutting bus services https://www.smh.com.au/national/nsw/brace-for-chaos-bus-union-warns-thousands-of-sydney-services-will-be-axed-from-monday-20230129-p5cg7q.html across Sydney.

The NSW government blames the lack of drivers on Australia’s low unemployment rate, but the bus union and Labor say privatisation has led to a deterioration in bus services.

On Tuesday morning last week, every third bus scheduled to arrive at Lane Cove interchange heading towards the city was cancelled or extremely delayed. On real-time tracking apps, Transport for NSW advises buses “may operate a reduced service level”.

Bus services in Sydney’s eastern suburbs, inner west, north shore and northern beaches are the hardest hit by the driver shortage.

Bus services in Sydney’s eastern suburbs, inner west, north shore and northern beaches are the hardest hit by the driver shortage.Credit:Louise Kennerley

Jane Weller’s 12-year-old daughter now walks 20 minutes from their Lane Cove home, past their closest bus stop, so she can fit on a service to Riverside Girls High. Weller said the bus disruption had been a frustrating way for her daughter to start high school.

“In the first week, the [over capacity] bus passed the children at the bus stop without explanation. It changed its route destination to ‘not in service’,” she said.


“We were only alerted to the issue when we walked to the bus stop ourselves to catch the city bus and found our daughter still waiting.”

Lane Cove councillor Rochelle Flood said many parents were now driving their children to school every day because they could not rely on the bus.

A Transport for NSW spokeswoman said the reduction in bus services had led to an increase in “negative comments” to operators and on social media.

“Adjusted timetables enable operators to offer more reliably predictable route services, rather than cancelling services ad hoc, giving greater certainty to commuters when planning their trip,” she said.

The spokeswoman blamed Australia’s low unemployment rate of 3.5 per cent for the driver shortage, which has led to more than 500 vacancies out of a workforce of about 7000. It is expected to continue throughout 2023 – despite efforts to recruit drivers with free public transport and subsidised training.

The ongoing bus service cuts add to the frustrations caused by Sydney’s train meltdown earlier this month https://www.smh.com.au/national/nsw/no-trains-are-moving-all-sydney-trains-down-ahead-of-afternoon-peak-20230308-p5cqgq.html, which led to the entire rail network grinding to a halt.

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The Rail, Tram and Bus Union NSW’s tram and bus division secretary David Babineau said the state government had axed thousands of trips from the timetable because it could not deliver a quality service to commuters.

“We’re seeing incredibly large queues at bus stops and bus drivers are being abused because of the government’s decision to axe services,” he said.

Babineau said the privatisation of buses was worsening driver shortages: “In addition to all the other issues caused by privatisation, they’re now struggling to attract and retain bus drivers, which means operators are axing hundreds of services every day.”

Lola Sharp has been late for many appointments since new timetables were introduced at the end of January, waiting up to half an hour for buses from Coogee that generally run at 10-minute intervals.

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“On questioning bus drivers, some have said ‘There is no timetable’,” she said. “Others have said ‘We just do as we are told’. Others have just shrugged.”

Sharp also expressed annoyance that her bus service terminates at Museum station instead of Circular Quay: “As an elderly person, I can do without accessing [and] exiting two buses instead of one.”

Orla Burke usually catches a bus from Bronte to Bondi Junction where she transfers to a train into the city.

But unreliable buses and inaccurate timetables have forced Burke to ask a neighbour to walk her children to school, so she can leave at 8am to ensure she is on time for her meetings.

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“It is possible to make a 9am meeting if everything runs to time,” she said. “However it’s currently not feasible to have 9am meetings as I’m frequently late, which makes me look unreliable.”

Labor transport spokeswoman Jo Haylen also blamed privatisation for the deterioration of bus services.

“[A cancelled service] forces passengers back onto our roads and reduces confidence in our public transport system.”

Haylen said a Labor government would set up a taskforce to address the driver shortage, and work to return services cut due to bus privatisation.

“This is about putting the needs of passengers at the centre of our bus network after years of Liberal neglect,” she said.

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The Real Rob Morrison
5 hours ago
Offer more money and they will sign up. Supply and demand.
Simon Raven
5 hours ago
Been like this for months, buses cancelled at short notice and even Google etc can't keep up with what's happening in real time. While Transport NSW says, "please check with Trip Planner before you travel" but even that doesn't tell you what's happening at the actual bus stops. And even Trip Planner says it might not be accurate and to ... check Trip Planner! Not uncommon to wait for 30mins for a bus that's meant to run every 10mins in the Eastern Suburbs. Shocking. Oh, and a note to the MP who said at the last state election he'd reinstate the 378's old route from Bronte to the city: you didn't.
5 hours ago
They would not pay me enough to be a bus or taxi driver in Sydney today. The place is a complete mess with overpopulation.
Gds Gds
5 hours ago
Who knew that in times of low employment you would have trouble filling jobs that are low paid and stressful. The same with teachers, nurses, Aged Care, Child Care, etc. Then the Government has the temerity to say they can’t increase the wages because of cost. If you don’t pay the bucks you don’t get the staff. What do they intend to do, Shanghai people and force them to work in these jobs?
Gds Gds
4 hours ago
Low unemployment.
5 hours ago
Exactly what everyone said would happen when the LNP sold off the 'Regions'.
4 hours ago
Hey, You have discovered why we need another million migrants in Australia.
Plain stupidity.
Migrants work cheaper than Australians.
4 hours ago
Driver shortages are a huge issue for buses, but the situation would be worse under govt ownership where wage growth is capped at 2%. At least private operators can offer sign on incentives and pay more to attract drivers. Unions and Labor should focus their anger elsewhere.
Jono Nolan
4 hours ago
The job is very stressful. Doing it close to 9 hours a day driving back and forth on Sydney's aggressive roads is very draining. You see the worst in human behaviour on the roads.
Uncomfortable Truth
4 hours ago
Sydney is full. I visited friends in Sydney on Thursday from the North Coast. At 11am it was like the peak hour of five years ago. It took me 75 minutes to go from Wahroonga to my destination. And I will not use toll roads. I cannot afford it on my pension income. And judging by the cars on my well known route, lots of others don't either.
4 hours ago
Why would you work for them? The new employment agreements are stingy. Bus drivers don’t even get a free travel pass any more! And what is the real cost saving in not giving them one anyway?
4 hours ago
It’s not just Bus drivers, staff shortages are everywhere in Sydney
And the PM is promising 100.000 new jobs
Good luck with that
Mrs Smith
4 hours ago
Every time I head to the office in the city, it's like playing the bus roulette. Trip planner doesn't provide live info on more than half of the buses and it's up to luck if the bus turns up or delayed substantially. WFH is the way instead of wasting hours a week on unpredictable buses. The big bosses asking people to go back to office must experience the frustration and poor productivity of the workers.
4 hours ago
Ferry connecting bus cancelled at last minute 2 out 3 times recently meaning 30 min wait or steep uphill walk in the heat. City light rail was also cancelled on one of those days. Completely unreliable.
4 hours ago
So the LIbs employment strategy for bus drivers relies on high unemployment? It's all a con when it comes to Dom.
Gary Squirrel
4 hours ago
When the B-Line was privatised, workers were put on new split shift rosters of four hours on, four hours off, four hours on again. It’s not a worker friendly arrangement even if you do live. close to home, and is unsustainable if you don’t and have to add a commute at either end of your effectively 12 hour shift. As a result, all the older bus drivers simply quit, and and surprisingly they’re having difficulties recruiting new drivers.
3 hours ago
Busways was down at my local shopping centre during business hours doing a recruitment drive for bus drivers. I said to them that they're looking in the wrong place - only pensioners and those who have past working age and would never qualify for a heavy vehicle licence pass through here.

Additionally, Transit Systems was spotted in NZ and Pacific Island countries taking out bus driver advertisements in local papers.

It's that desperate, thanks to privatisation.
3 hours ago
Driving buses is a horrible job, I nearly hand in my resignation every day.

A lot of drivers left to retire and their positions weren't taken by younger people because they know it's a terrible job and they all want to earn big bucks in IT and finance.

Passengers affected by the cancellations need to realise that by abusing the driver of the next service that comes along they are potentially abetting the resignation decision of that driver... to cause even more shortages! Just call 131500 and lodge your complaint instead.
3 hours ago
All these entities (public transport, post, etc) are paying more and more people more and more money to sit in front of computers and figure out ways to cut money. They look at spreadsheets, crunch numbers and come to the conclusion that it’s the people doing these services that are the problem, not them.
3 hours ago
There's this concept called a market for labour where businesses have to learn to put up wages to attract staff rather than rely on an endless flow of migrants to keep wages suppressed.
3 hours ago
Why do they still call it public transport when all the buses have been sold off to private companies, its now just a series of unreliable local private bus services like we had half a century ago?


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