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Medway Arriva drivers are being balloted for industrial action over controversial and unsafe timetable changes

Bus drivers could strike over a series of controversial and unpopular timetable changes.

More than 200 Arriva bus drivers in Medway have begun being balloted for industrial action over the introduction of "unachievable" timetables.

Their union Unite claimed the changes make it impossible to deliver a safe and reliable service.

An Arriva bus
An Arriva bus

The drivers, from across the Towns, raised concerns over the introduction of the new timetables in June this year.

They said they feared the changes would lead to excessive periods at the wheel. The drivers won assurances from management that a solution would be found by September 2015.

But the deadline has passed and further changes to timetables are worsening the situation, they claim. According to the drivers' union, frustration at Arriva is increasing as the company keeps "shifting the goalposts".

Unite claims the timetable changes have resulted in:

  • Unrealistic running times on routes
  • Drivers being kept at the wheel for five and a half hours at a time, with just four minutes ‘recovery’ time
  • Limited time or access to toilet facilities.

The ballot for industrial action closes on Wednesday November 25.

Unite regional officer Dave Weeks said: “Our members pride themselves on the service they provide to the travelling public, but it is a service which is being undermined by recent changes.

“These timetable changes make it impossible for drivers to deliver a reliable and safe service. The current driving conditions are leading to drivers being behind the wheel for excessive periods without even the time for a ‘comfort’ break.

Arriva at Chatham bus station
Arriva at Chatham bus station

“Arriva management cannot continue to shift the goalposts or bury their head in the sand over the impact of the recent changes. Bus drivers have become increasingly frustrated.

"It’s time for management to enter into meaningful talks to address the concerns of Medway Arriva bus drivers and to stand by its promises.”

An Arriva spokesman said “Unite the Union had notified us of their intention to hold a postal ballot of drivers at our Gillingham Depot and the company met with their representatives last week to discuss these issues.

“We have made progress in improving some running times in the light of ongoing traffic congestion problems but we need to discuss any proposed changes with Medway Council prior to giving at least 56 days’ notice to the bus industry regulator before changes to timetables can be implemented. A meeting with Medway Council has already been scheduled to take place next week.”

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