Thousands of National Express bus drivers are striking for a third day in a dispute over pay that will affect passengers across the West Midlands.

Drivers in the region, represented by Unite, rejected a pay offer from the company at the weekend.

It means that National Express is being forced to operate a severely reduced schedule, largely serving hospitals.

National Express West Midlands runs around 1,600 buses across Birmingham, Wolverhampton, Coventry, Walsall, Dudley and West Bromwich and Worcestershire.

They carry approximately 600,000 passengers every single day.

How is the National Express strike affecting buses?

National Express released a statement on its website on Wednesday. It read: “A limited service, primarily serving the region’s major hospitals, which may be changed at short notice, is operating. Please do not travel on a National Express bus unless absolutely necessary. National Express coaches are running as normal.

“Tickets for travel during the strike period are available to buy via the NX mTicket app and from the driver on services that are currently operating. Alternative public transport is still running, to find out more please visit the TfWM website.”

Only a limited number of National Express West Midlands services will be running:

  • 4 – Birmingham – Solihull (via Sparkbrook, Tyseley, Acocks Green and Olton)
  • 5 – West Bromwich – Sutton Coldfield (via Great Barr, Kingstanding and New Oscott)
  • 6 – Birmingham – Solihull (via Sparkbrook, Sparkhill, Hall Green and Shirley)
  • 6 – Dudley – Stourbridge (via Russells Hall Hospital, Brierley Hill and Amblecote)
  • 28 – Heartlands Hospital – Great Barr (via Ward End, Castle Bromwich, Erdington, Old Oscott and Perry Beeches)
  • 51 – Birmingham – Walsall (via Great Barr and Perry Barr)
  • 59 | Wolverhampton – Ashmore Park (via New Cross Hospial & Wednesfield)
  • 87 – Birmingham – Dudley (via City Hospital, Smethwick, Oldbury and Tividale)
  • 97 – Birmingham – Chelmsley Wood (via Bordesley Green, Heartlands Hospital and Meadway)
  • 529 – Wolverhampton – Walsall (via Willenhall)
  • X4 – Birmingham – Falcon Lodge (via Aston Expressway, Erdington, Sutton Coldfield and Good Hope Hospital)
  • X21 – Birmingham – Bartley Green (via Birmingham University, Selly Oak and Weoley Castle)

National Express is warning people to only travel if truly necessary.

Other bus companies, including Diamond, Arriva and Stagecoach, are running a normal service, but National Express tickets will not be accepted.

You can find more information on these below:

How long will the bus strike last?

The strike began on Monday 20 March and is set to continue indefinitely, until a pay deal is reached.

David Bradford, managing director of National Express West Midlands, said in an open letter: “I’m disappointed to say that our drivers have rejected our 14.3 per cent pay offer and that means there will be a strike starting on Monday 20 March. Sadly we don’t know how long the strike will last.

“I am sorry for the disruption this is going to cause. Services will be very limited and, our advice is to avoid travel by National Express bus if possible, and check our website for live updates on which routes are running.”

Unite said action would be “indefinite” until an agreement is made.

“Our members are clear the offer needs to improve to reflect rising prices and the incredibly hard job they do,” said Unite national officer Onay Kasab.

Why are bus drivers striking?

National Express said it made an offer to drivers of a 14.3 per cent pay increase, which would have seen the average driver earn almost £33,000.

However, 71 per cent of Unite members voted against the deal in a ballot held on Friday and Saturday. A spokesperson for Unite said that the deal had “more strings attached than a grand piano”.

Unite general secretary, Sharon Graham, said: “National Express is an extremely wealthy company and makes considerable profits from the hard work of our members, who are not paid enough for the difficult and stressful job they do. The company must come back with an offer our members can accept.

“Unite’s top priority is defending and improving our members’ jobs, pay and conditions and National Express’ workforce have their union’s full support during these strikes.”

A spokesperson for National Express West Midlands said: “We are sorry for the disruption that this will cause across the West Midlands. Our advice to customers is not to try to travel on our buses unless you really need to.

“As the week goes on, we hope to add back in more services so please check our website for the latest information. We are working with our partners to minimise the impact of the disruption in any way we can and we are seeking to bring a speedy resolution to the strike.”

Mr Bradford said: “We are promising three things: One – our goal is to run as many buses as we can. We care deeply about our customers and will prioritise routes that serve hospitals and build up what we can above that. We know a lot of drivers didn’t vote to strike, don’t want to strike, and are planning to come to work as usual. We don’t yet know how many buses and routes this will mean we can run, and things will change at short notice.

“Two – we will provide regular updates on our website and social media about which services are operating and to what timetable. We commit to communicate openly and honestly about what is running, as things change.

“Three – we will of course refund the cost of your bus ticket if you can’t travel. There will be a form on our website from 20 March. We remain committed to resolving this as quickly as possible. Please know that serving our customers is uppermost in our minds.

By admin