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Cancellations and delays: Stadtwerke Bonn urgently seeking bus and tram drivers

Cancellations and delays : Stadtwerke Bonn urgently seeking bus and tram drivers

Stadtwerke Bonn (SWB), the local transportation authority is experiencing a shortage of drivers for buses and trams. Competition is fierce in the industry. Introductory days and test drives are being used to find new personnel.

In light of the increase in bus and tram cancellations and delays following the change in the timetable on August 26, Stadtwerke Bus und Bahn (SWB) is stepping up its efforts to find new drivers.

The municipal transport company is advertising for additional personnel on the rear of six buses, featuring the face of trainee Alina Klotzbücher with slogans such as "Lenk deine Karriere!" (“Steer your career!”). Ads also run on the monitors in the vehicles. Klotzbücher is in her second year of training. She comes from a family that has worked for SWB for many years. Mother and father, uncle and aunt all work for the local transport service. "Somehow the job was a natural choice," said the 18-year-old. Her fellow apprentice Nico Reiff, 19 years old, is in his third year of apprenticeship and he has wanted to "drive buses since childhood".

Introductory days and test drives

The SWB has been advertising intensively for new staff for some time now, for example with introductory days and test drives at the depots. Anja Wenmakers, Managing Director of SWB Bus and Bahn, rejects the aggressive poaching practiced by other public transport companies. Rolf Beu, Chairman of the Bonn Transport Committee, also does not believe in it, saying the approach lacks a sense of solidarity. Since January 2018, the transport company has hired 180 new drivers according to Wenmakers. 80 drivers left the company in the same period, most of them retired. "We want to show even more clearly than before that we are an attractive employer and that SWB offers many training opportunities," she explained.

A trainee earns a good 1,000 euros gross (monthly) in the first year of training. In the first year on the job, drivers receive 2,500 euros in gross pay plus special allowances for late shifts, holidays and weekends. According to Wenmakers, in order to train the urgently needed drivers, the municipal utilities have intensified their cooperation with the employment agency and external driving schools and expanded their own training center. They are also looking for capable drivers throughout Europe. Language courses are offered for refugees who show interest.

Cancellations and delays

SWB currently employs 500 bus drivers and 220 tram drivers to operate 200 buses and 100 trams in its fleet. Nevertheless, cancellations and delays have increased since the timetable change. This applies to trams, light rail and buses. The latter have to struggle through the dense traffic. Motorists who park illegally, blocking streets, and a high sick leave rate following Pützchen's Markt fair are further reasons for the unreliability in public transport, Wenmakers said. At the beginning of December, 19 drivers are expected to finish their training. She hopes for an improvement by then at the latest.

Lead City Project

One outcome of the situation is the Lead City project sponsored by the federal government, in which Bonn participates. By means of price incentives, higher frequency on the timetable and operational mobility management, i.e. better rates for companies, the federal government wants to find out which incentives will appeal to people to make a transition from cars to local transport. According to the Association of German Transport Companies (VDV), there is a shortage of around 50,000 drivers nationwide. "The reason for the acute shortage of personnel is by no means that the companies are unattractive. Mobility is a huge topic", said Jan Schilling, head of the local transport division at VDV: "On the contrary, the industry lacks visibility and communication in seeking applicants. Some of us here are still too timid."

As head of a service provider for the city, Wenmakers is not in a position to make demands. Nevertheless, she considers it necessary to support Lead City with further steps. This includes more acceleration lanes for buses. "Drivers should be able to see that buses are passing them." At the same time, they believe that parking space management should be stepped up so that motorists change to buses because it is cheaper for them. Last summer, the transport committee asked the municipal utilities and the city to present an analysis of where public transport could be enhanced. A proposal to have bus lanes on Hermann-Wandersleb-Ring and Endenicher Strasse has now been submitted to the appropriate political bodies.

(Orig. text: Philipp Königs; Translation: ck)