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Solent braces for bus disruption over Bank Holiday

By Connor Steel

REGULAR BUS USERS across Gosport and Fareham have all been warned to expect “significant disruption” over this upcoming August Bank Holiday weekend after an announcement from Unite; who stated that drivers and other workers are due to take industrial action for a four day period as part of the ongoing dispute with First Bus over pay / conditions.

It has been reported that the strike is scheduled to begin from 3am on August 25 (Friday) and end at 3am on August 29 (Tuesday) with almost two hundred members set to join the picket lines from this Solent area. Action is set to be copied across the network and follows similar strikes from British workers; including rail staff, civil servants, and junior doctors.

This dispute is believed to centre around First Bus and their “refusal” to make a reasonable cost of living payment to its workers; who are said to be struggling to make ends meet on low wages and there have been no negotiations. A driver is paid just £12 per hour according to Unite whilst their lowest earners receive a hourly rate of £11.03 for their services.

Unite have furthermore outlined that First Bus reported strong profits of £226.8 million in their last “annual report”; a big increase of six million in a twelve month period. Regional officer Ian Woodland has said that the “company had brought this dispute on itself. Unite has repeatedly tried to negotiate this but the employer has flatly refused to engage with us.”

Disruption is likely to affect bus routes across the entire First Bus Solent area; which covers all of Portsmouth, Gosport, Fareham, Cosham, Paulsgrove and Southampton. The strike is furthermore organised to coincide with a big number of local events; most notably the highly publicised ‘Victorious Music Festival’ which is due to bring thousands to Southsea.

Although some First Bus services are expected to run throughout the weekend, there may be last minute cancellations or unexplainable delay to routes. This may affect commuters going to work, elderly people, shoppers and those visiting family across the Bank Holiday; the first three day weekend since late May and the last “public holiday” until Christmas.

First Bus are yet to release any special measures / timetable for the strike period with their passengers asked to check before travelling; either through the phone application or website. This will provide updated timings and maps that they can expect to access on each day; with most services likely to be busier than normal across both peak / off peak times.

There are no strikes expected from Bluestar and Stagecoach for this Bank Holiday weekend; meaning that people may still travel in parts of Southampton and Portsmouth. Water crossings such as Wightlink, IOW Ferries and Gosport Ferry are set to run as normal; whilst train services should go ahead as planned with an exception of August 26 (RMT strike).

PICTURED BY ALAMY (BRY2F1): First Bus staff are scheduled to “strike” over coming August Bank Holiday weekend.