Bn many users of public transport in Wiesbaden, but also with Eswe bus drivers, their nerves are on edge. The introduction of the Saturday timetable on weekdays and the cancellation of 900 of the otherwise 3,700 daily bus trips due to the glaring lack of drivers lead to considerable resentment in the city. During the most recent meeting of the Mobility Committee, its members and also Transport Director Andreas Kowol (Die Grünen) had to listen to criticism from citizens.
A quick end to the misery is not in sight: the timetable change originally planned for December, which would have meant more buses on the road, will be postponed to March 5 next year. The anger is great, as was already evident during the public question hour at the beginning of the Thursday evening session. “Are we second-class people?” Asked Eswe bus driver Markus Pfaff, visibly agitated, and expressed the suspicion that the bus system was being “deliberately and with political intention” destroyed.
Overcrowded buses and unhappy parents
He accused politicians of preparing the field on which the previously failed Citybahn would be presented as a solution. The city, he accused, had been making policies against bus drivers for 20 years. Committee chairman Martin Kraft (The Greens) defended himself against these allegations. However, he felt that many of the problems would not exist if the city had a tram.
But parents are angry too. A representative of the City Parents’ Advisory Board reported massive complaints because many pupils no longer came to school on time or not at all. Many threatened to drive their children back to school. In an open letter, the City Student Council and the City Parents’ Council addressed Kowol and asked him to take steps to ensure that school transport is “adequately guaranteed” again. The buses are completely overcrowded and the corona precautions, such as distances, can “under no circumstances” be observed. The crucial question is: “When will we return to the regular timetable?”
Kowol made a detailed statement on this in the committee. “We currently have an extremely difficult situation in our bus network,” he said, recalling that the high level of sick leave at Eswe Verkehr had already meant that the regular timetable could no longer be adhered to during the Corona period. But, according to the head of traffic, the sick leave has been “very high” for a few months now.
poaching campaigns and sick leave
In addition to the Omicron wave, he also named dissatisfaction within the company as a possible cause. “In the spring of this year, the start of a new transport company in Bad Kreuznach carried out a very massive poaching campaign among bus drivers,” he listed another reason for the misery. Overall, Eswe lost 48 bus drivers to other transport companies. How many bus drivers are currently reported sick at Eswe could not be communicated by the traffic department on Friday when asked.
According to Kowol, attempts to fill the gap with subcontractors have failed. Therefore, an attempt was made at short notice to compensate for the situation with the Saturday timetable. “We are now again in the process of commissioning other transport companies and subcontractors with the smallest of orders,” he described the situation and pointed out that there was already a cooperation with a provider who wanted to make Eswe temporary workers available.
They are even negotiating with individual bus drivers to persuade them to return to Eswe, Kowol continues. “It will be even longer and take many weeks to be able to offer satisfactory bus services for all Wiesbaden customers,” he said, ending hopes that the bus chaos would end quickly.
Return to regular timetable “not foreseeable”
Eswe interim managing director Martin Weis confirmed this statement: “It is not foreseeable that we will return to the regular timetable this year with the measures achieved.” Eswe is currently preparing a large tender and is in dialogue with several companies, he continued. The first relaxation was achieved with various individual measures, which can be seen from the fact that punctuality has increased significantly.
During the ensuing discussion, Christian Hill from the Free Voters/Pro Auto faction suspected that the pressure on the people of Wiesbaden should be “artificially built up” in order to present the Citybahn as a solution and to urge the citizens to agree. Silas Gottwald of the SPD described this statement as “impudence” and accused Hill of spreading conspiracy theories.
In the further course of the meeting, the cooperation between the SPD, Greens, Left and Volt decided on their application entitled “Sustainably secure public transport in Wiesbaden”, which also proposes the use of double-articulated buses. For Alexander Winckelmann (FDP) it was clear that the cooperation would obviously not be able to solve the city’s problems.