Mayor unveils retention scheme for London’s bus drivers

14 February 2020
  • Son of a bus driver Mayor takes firm action to tackle retention issues on the buses
  • Figures show a high number of bus drivers leave within the first two years of service
  • Bus drivers with two and three years’ service to receive retention payment of up to £1,600
  • Improved retention to lead to savings for bus industry in the long term

The Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has announced plans under which around 20,000 London bus drivers would receive a retention payment of up to £1,600 as part of plans to ensure the capital’s transport network continues to be served by a skilled and highly dedicated workforce.


Operators in London have reported that retention of bus drivers is becoming increasingly challenging - figures show bus drivers in the capital are most likely to leave their job in their first two years in the profession, with some of London’s largest operators reporting a 30 per cent average staff turnover within this timeframe*. Bus companies in the capital have also said that Brexit and the weak pound are making it more difficult to recruit new drivers from abroad.


The Mayor, whose dad was a bus driver, is taking decisive action to ensure that drivers are incentivised to remain in the industry and the profession continues to be attractive to new talent.


Under the plans announced today, bus drivers will receive a payment of £1,000 after completing two years of service and will be eligible for a further £600 after their third year.  Drivers who have already completed three years’ service when the scheme comes into effect will be entitled to £1,600 in a single payment. In the long term, improved retention will mean less money will need to be spent by bus operators on recruiting and training new staff.


The Mayor announced the proposed scheme during a visit to meet bus drivers in Brixton. This is Sadiq’s fourth major initiative to provide bus drivers with a fairer deal, which was a key Mayoral commitment.  It builds on the introduction of the minimum professional London bus driver’s wage, the ‘Licence for London’ scheme which allows drivers to move to a new company at a pay grade equivalent to their level of service and experience, and new measures to improve road safety following world-leading research on bus driver fatigue, commissioned by TfL.


The Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said: “As Londoners will know, I’m proud that my dad worked as a bus driver when I was growing up on a council estate in south London. So I know first-hand how hard they work to keep London moving all day and through the night.


“I’m really proud to launch this new reward and retention initiative which, along with my minimum professional London bus driver’s wage and ‘Licence for London’ schemes, will help us to retain more experienced bus drivers and deliver a better service for passengers and drivers alike.”


Claire Mann, Director of Bus Operations at TfL, said: “Buses are vital to this city, and their drivers are crucial to ensuring Londoners can reliably, safely and comfortably get around. Service reliability is impacted by high staff turnover, so this scheme from the Mayor of London will not only benefit the drivers themselves, but will also help improve service reliability for customers.”


Diana Holland, Unite Assistant General Secretary for Transport said: “This is a very important initiative as it is tackling the issue of progression, which bus drivers throughout the UK raise as a major concern.


“Sadiq Khan needs to be congratulated on introducing a retention payment for bus drivers. Unite is seeking action like this across the country to end the ‘race to the bottom’ for bus workers.


“The principle of investing in bus drivers is about investing in the communities that they serve.”


Notes to editors

  • The Mayor has set out £34m to fund the planned scheme in his proposed 20/21 budget, which is published today (Friday) and will be considered by the London Assembly on 24th February, so the scheme is subject to funding and related formal approvals
  • The bus driver retention initiative will be reviewed for effectiveness in May 2024 at which point consideration will be given as to whether to extend the scheme
  • The retention payment will be pro-rated for drivers who work part time. Only bus drivers who are employed driving on regular bus routes contracted by TfL will be eligible for a retention payment under this scheme, it does not apply to other bus drivers working in London
  • TfL will be responsible for administering the retention payment scheme
  • The ‘Licence for London’ scheme allows drivers to take with them their qualifications and driving record in the form of an enhanced reference for their new employers. All of London’s bus operators have signed up to Licence for London and have committed to apply it
  • The Mayor secured a new starter minimum wage of £25,530 (as of April 2020) for drivers working across all of London’s bus companies. The wage was designed to prevent a ‘race to the bottom’ in terms of pay, and addressed the large variations in pay between drivers employed by different companies.  The minimum professional London bus driver wage has been applied to all new TfL contracts awarded to bus companies from April 2017 and rises in line with inflation.  
  • Last year TfL published a world-first driver fatigue report which includes a variety of tough measures to tackle the issue, including rigorous fatigue risk management systems for all new contracts and a £500,000 innovation fund.

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