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Arriva: Buses should run on time from Monday

Commuter numbers up 20% from August last year

Commuters should as from Monday expect buses to turn up according to schedule, the managing director of Arriva Malta, Keith Bastow, said this afternoon.

Speaking at a press conference he acknowledged the problems his company has endured in the past two months since it introduced the bus service in Malta but said that a lot of progress had been made.

The company, he said, had recruited 160 drivers since July and now that their training was complete, buses should run on schedule from Monday.

Mr Bastow said the driver shortage at the launch of the service - caused when a large number of drivers walked away - had meant that frequency was reduced.

Since then, he said, Arriva had set up an ongoing driver programme. It was hoped that by October, the company would no longer need foreign drivers to man its buses - there are currently 70.

"Services have demonstrably improved and we are pleased to see an overall marked improvement in reliability from our records, reinforced by fewer customer complaints and encouraging feedback from the public reporting better service experience. Early indications are that we carried around 20 per cent more passengers than the previous operator did in the similar period last year, which whilst it is too early to be representative of any wider trends, is very encouraging," Mr Bastow said.

He said that queries, feedback and complaints had kept Arriva's Customer Care Centre busy, with almost 65,000 calls since 3 July. However, Mr Bastow pointed out, that the average number of daily customer complaints in August fell to 132 – less than a quarter of a per cent of those who travelled – as a further sign of perceived improvements.

He said that Arriva over the past weeks introduced 10 new Optare Hybrid buses.

"The reaction to our drivers and the new standards of customer service on buses has attracted praise from passengers – I am very proud of our team and want to thank the drivers and other employees who have worked so hard to help us turn things around and improve services for our passengers."

Mr Bastow acknowledged there was still more to be done to improve the service.

"We are monitoring the network closely in preparation for any potential issues which may arise anywhere, at any time – and we are still learning to better deal with difficult situations where roads are closed for periods of time, such as the ministerial visit from the Czech (Slovak) Republic this week."

He said the company had identified a number of challenging routes where improvement work is ongoing.

"For example, Arriva will continue to focus extra resource on routes 11, 12 and 13, 31 and 91 which can suffer delays from congestion and from overcrowding issues at certain times. We will continue to monitor and address challenges on these routes, including committing additional buses at busy times where possible. We will continue to monitor emerging trends into September and this coming season and will work hard to alleviate the challenges.

He added, that Route 41 which had also met with high demand, would be assisted by the introduction of the new X6 limited stop, fast service from Cirkewwa/ Mellieha to Valletta.

NEW DIRECT SERVICES TO MATER DEI

Mr Bastow said that improvements in the pipeline for the coming weeks included new direct services from various localities to Mater Dei Hospital and the University as from October 2. The absence of those services were among the most frequent source of complaints over the past weeks.

Arriva, he said, received an average of 131 complaints every day last month.

Piers Marlow, director, said he was satisfied with the progress made in the past two months, but more remained to be done, including the system to inform commuters on waiting times in real time.

He said that new routes and adjustments to existing routes, announced over the past few days, would come into force tomorrow.

Mr Bastow said Arriva is also in the process of refurbishing 28 low-floor buses from the old service. They are being fitted with air conditioning and will also produce less harmful emissions than before.

Reacting to complaints made yesterday by the Malta Hotels and Restaurants Association, Mr Bastow said tourists were an important sector of the company's customer base, but the routes were decided by Transport Malta, not Arriva. He noted, however, that improvements had been made in some routes, benefiting tourists.

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