Bolton bus users lament ‘appalling’ Diamond bus service

DIAMOND Buses has been the subject of many complaints – with users unhappy with the service despite the recent price increase.

The Bolton News spoke with three different Diamond customers, each with access to different services, to understand their experiences.

Wendy Nuttall is an assistant cardiology practitioner at the Royal Bolton Hospital and has started taking the bus to work from her home in Great Lever following a recent leg injury.

She said: ‘It’s appalling.

“I finish at eight o’clock and I don’t get home until nine-thirty. It takes me longer to take the bus than to walk.

“Went to Blackpool the other day and got back to Bolton quicker than I got back from work.”

Ms Nuttall, who has worked at the hospital for 22 years, usually takes a lift to work but due to work schedules she has to use public transport for the return journey.

She often has to take a £5 taxi home due to waiting times and uncertainty about when the next bus will arrive, despite paying £18 for a weekly bus ticket.

This means that in a five-day working week she could pay an extra £50 for travel.

Diamond Buses have often been reported as being late

She said: “After a 12.5 hour shift, I don’t want to walk through a difficult area in the dark. It’s not safe, so I take a taxi.

Ms Nuttall has two different apps to keep her up to date – Diamond’s own app and Transport for Greater Manchester’s version.

“Apps are completely disabled.

“One says there’s a bus in four minutes and the other says 20. Should I stay? Should I take a taxi? Should I walk?

“If they informed you, I could accept that.”

Simon Harwood and his daughter, an eighth year student at Bolton UCS, rely on Diamond frequently for work and school trips.

He said: ‘On several occasions my daughter called me upset and worried because the bus service she needed to take her to school was running late, but when it finally arrived it didn’t come. is not arrested or refused to travel due to capacity.”

“The 471 service from Bury to Bolton used to be every 10 minutes, on which the route is very busy, but the schedule advertised on their website is not the one provided.”

Simon had a similar experience, having waited 40 minutes for a bus to show up only to drive past a number of angry and frustrated passengers.

He added: “I work in Manchester myself and due to the disgraceful service provided by Diamond I have missed connecting trains which has caused me to be late for work.

“With increased rates, this is simply unacceptable, but it seems that Diamond Buses is content to treat us with nothing but contempt. After all, what alternatives do we have?

Another service user, who works in retail in Bolton town centre, takes the 582 bus from Atherton to work.

The Bolton News: A long line of customers waiting for the bus at Bolton Interchange A long line of customers waiting for the bus at Bolton Interchange

They said, “Throughout the winter we have been abandoned – freezing cold. You have pensioners there, you have absolutely freezing wives and children there.

“All I’ve been asking for, for months and months and months, is a summons to explain to us that there are no buses so that we can find alternative arrangements, instead of waiting. Many, many times we waited two hours.

“We shouldn’t be paying £64 a month for this service, when we’re paying, and can’t get home and paying £20 for a taxi.”

They also discussed the wider implications of poor service, saying: ‘They’re losing business in the city center because people think ‘I can’t go to Bolton, I’m never going home.

“I left at half past seven in the morning to go to work and I leave at nine and I just arrived at nine five.

“People are going to lose their jobs.”

All three customers filed complaints with Diamond, all of which received responses deemed unsatisfactory.

Diamond defended himself with a lengthy statement that spells out a range of issues he has faced.

A spokesperson said: “We are committed to providing quality service to all of our customers. We understand our customers’ frustration with current issues. There are a number of elements contributing to this, and we would like to take this opportunity to explain some of the challenges we are currently encountering.

Full details of Diamon’s statement can be read below:

Works

Over the past 18 months roadworks have taken place at the Newport Street/Trinity Street junction in Bolton. This was to introduce the new cycle crossing of the Cyclops. This set of works alone has caused significant delays, especially for the 501 service, which has to negotiate this work twice to enter and leave the city center.

Unfortunately, these works have repeatedly caused unpredictable traffic jams in the city center and have significantly worsened travel speeds at this junction.

Shortly after the completion of this work, another set of roadworks again emerged, concentrating on the Trinity Street/Manchester Road junction, resulting in a one lane at a time system at the in and out of downtown on the busiest corridor, again. leading to major unplanned congestion.

The Bolton News: Roadworks in Bolton town centerRoadworks in Bolton town center

The work to put in place the new cycle path on the Bradford Road bridge at the entrance and exit of the city centre, in addition to the work in progress at the entrance to Bury – Angoulême Way – then the closure of Wash Lane over the past 12 months has meant that our 471 service has been heavily disrupted by major construction in two separate boroughs which is too unpredictable to plan for.

We have intervened by re-registering schedules on several occasions to adjust the operation of this service to reduce the impact on customers.

Vandalism

We have seen a worrying increase in vandalism towards our services.

It has cost us over £60,000 just for broken windows in the past 12 months due to anti-social behavior and objects being thrown at our vehicles while in service.

We have sometimes had more than 6 broken windows in one night. This results in the vehicles having to be called back to the depot after the incident, which means that it does not make the planned route while also resulting in these vehicles not being available for servicing until that they be repaired. It could be up to 48 hours after the incident.

The Bolton News: Diamond bus vandalismVandalism on a Diamond bus

Vandalism affects the retention of our drivers as some drivers are fed up with the fear of crossing certain areas.

Covid-19

We continue to be impacted by driver ridership levels due to the effects of COVID on a daily basis, this has started to worsen over the past month.

Staffing levels

Like all operators, we are currently operating slightly below the number of drivers we would ideally like to have.

As a company we offer our own comprehensive in-house training for anyone wishing to join our company as a driver and have recently raised our hourly rate to be one of the highest in Bolton at £13 from the time.

In the past month alone, we have employed over 25 PCV licensed and trainee drivers.

Additionally, we are also working closely with Job Center Plus and Bolton College to increase the number of applications for positions in our company.

Over the past two years, all industries and government department production have been affected by staffing levels and during this long period we have faced delays in approving license applications.

This means it takes longer to train new drivers and we are still catching up. Impact on Drivers does not only focus on our industry, as it has been well published with heavy truck drivers as well.

Melvin Z. Madore