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April 2, 2014

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Home » Metro » Public Services

Lack of drivers forces private bus firm off public routes

SHANGHAI Huihua yesterday become the latest privately owned bus company to exit the public sector due to difficulties recruiting drivers.

“We have plenty of vehicles, but they’re all parked in the garage. What we lack is drivers,” said an employee who declined to give his name.

The problem is that drivers working for private bus companies are poorly paid and are regarded as having a low social status, he said.

“As a result, many of them take jobs at state companies, as the pay is better and there are more benefits,” he said.

With Huihua’s departure, its 864 service was yesterday taken over by Shanghai Bashi No. 2 Co, while its 197, 341, 803 and 944 routes were handled by Bashi No. 4 Co.

Prior to the withdrawal, Huihua’s lack of drivers had forced it to extend the interval between buses on the 864 route to 50 minutes. Under the new operators, the interval will be 30 to 40 minutes during rush hour periods and 40 to 50 minutes at other times, Bashi said.

According to traffic authority guidelines, the intervals for public buses operating inside the Outer Ring Road should be no longer than 8 minutes during rush hour periods and 20 minutes at other times. Bus companies are not obliged to adhere to the standard, however.

End of the road

Huihua had been struggling to meet its commitments for some time and lost its 804 and Minhang No. 18 routes to a state firm last year after more than 50 of its drivers left in the space of a month to join the Bashi Group.

There are now just 10 private companies running public bus services in the city. Most of their routes are in suburban areas, such as Qingpu and Fengxian, which are not well served by the Metro network.

Just 20 years ago, there were more than 150 such firms operating in the city.

In contrast, Shanghai has about 20 state-owned bus companies, which are subsidized by the government and operate more than 80 percent of the public bus routes.

Yet despite enjoying preferential treatment, including beneficial policies regarding the purchase of new vehicles, public sector bus firms do not have it all their own way.

Increased competition from the Metro system, which now overlaps with many routes, has cut into passenger numbers and revenue, and while drivers with state firms are paid an average of 60,000 yuan (US$9,700) a year, recruiting them is still not easy.

“State firms are not rich in staff,” said a driver surnamed Zhao who is employed by Bashi and now works on the 864 route adopted from Huihua.

“We’re often short of drivers,” he said. “So it’s hard enough just keeping the route going, let alone meeting the interval standard.”


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