'Being driven inland' - Bus drivers can't afford coast, says company boss

Charles Sanders, managing director of Sanders Coaches. Picture: Mark Bullimore.

Charles Sanders, managing director of Sanders Coaches. - Credit: Archant

Booming property prices and the demand for holiday rentals is making north Norfolk increasingly unaffordable for service sector workers, a bus firm boss has warned. 

Charles Sanders, managing director of North Walsham-based bus firm Sanders Coaches said he would take on at least 10 more drivers tomorrow if he could, and said other employers were also struggling to find staff.

Mr Sanders said though his firm had been able to continue offering a full service, they had resorted to having qualified managers leave their desks and drive bus routes to fill shortages.

Bus in North Walsham.

File photo of a Sanders bus in North Walsham. - Credit: Archant

He said: "People can't afford to live here anymore. The wages in the service industry are not enough to be able to afford a £500,000 house. 

"We've had people retire, people move. I've had some move away because their landlords have told them to leave, because they wanted the properties for holiday lets. There's no rental properties left."

Mr Sanders added: "If something doesn't change in the years to come it will continue to get worse. Local people are being driven inland to find housing because of the cost of living on this coastal strip."

Mr Sanders said he had a staff of about 115, but would ideally like it to be 125-130.

North Norfolk MP Duncan Baker raised the issue of bus driver shortages in the House of Commons this week in a question to transport secretary Grant Shapps, calling it a "real problem" particularly for "rural and isolated" constituencies. 

North Norfolk MP Duncan Baker at Cley Windmill on his 2021 summer tour.

North Norfolk MP Duncan Baker raised the issue of bus driver shortages in parliament. - Credit: Supplied by Duncan Baker

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“Rural transport is a lifeline for many people,” he said. “Some of our routes are in danger of being cut because of driver shortages.”

Mr Sanders said employers across the service industry helped each other out when they could to plug gaps.

He said: "We have been using management just to get the kids to school. When push comes to shove, we never say no. We're not going to leave the children at home."

Mr Baker said Covid had made many workers re-think their lifestyles and make a career change.

He said people were “revisiting their lifestyle”, with chefs walking away from long hours in hot kitchens to take on other jobs which paid the same and allowed them to take weekends off, such as becoming delivery drivers for online retailers.