BAR staff could finish their pub shift and be redeployed to drive colleagues and customers home on night buses, the boss of First Bus in Scotland has said.

Duncan Cameron, managing director of the firm, said First would train night time economy workers and give them flexible hours in a show of willingness to make retaining the services possible.

On Monday, the company announced an imminent end to 11 night service routes in Glasgow following persistently low passenger numbers and revenue losses.

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There has been widespread condemnation of the plans from politicians, unions, night time economy workers and charities including criticism from the First Minister Humza Yousaf.

In an exclusive interview with The Herald, Mr Cameron put forward a defence of his firm's decision.

He further revealed that drivers of the night bus routes will be redeployed to additional services that will bolster an existing Glasgow route in plans currently out for approval by the Traffic Commissioner. 

Mr Cameron also accused politicians and other stakeholders of hypocrisy over their criticisms, saying there had been ample time for them to act during a six month consultation about the future of the service.

The Herald:

He detailed how a struggle to recruit drivers - despite efforts to diversify the workforce - is the biggest issue in continuing with the night bus services but said First Glasgow would be flexible around seeking solutions to the issue.

Mr Cameron said: "A driver behind the wheel is the biggest challenge. 

"What's to stop somebody working in a bar being volunteered to be trained by First Bus and, as part of their shift, work for First Bus doing two journeys and the night late services?

"It might sound a bit of a wacky idea, but it would it would solve the problem and provide employment."

Mr Cameron said consultation on the future of the night bus began in late January this year and discussions were held with the local authority, councillors, businesses and city stakeholders.

The lack of engagement or offers of support to retain the service have, he said, made the level of outcry "unforeseen".

He said: "I'm aware of the level of engagement that we've had prior to making this decision, seeking support, seeking involvement and seeking other solutions to try to help us overcome this. 

"But bus has been used as a political football

READ MORE: Night bus loss is an embarrassment to Glasgow

"People will be aware of comments being made by certain individuals and I can assure you, those individuals were very quiet through some of these discussions. I'm not going to hang anyone out to dry. 

"They know who they are."

Yesterday Humza Yousaf and former First Minister Nicola Sturgeon were among 16 SNP MSPs who wrote a letter to Mr Cameron calling the loss of the service an "appalling blow".

They joined unions Unite Hospitality and the STUC in pointing out that a lack of late night services could put workers at risk as they travel home.

Mr Cameron said: "We recognise those concerns. But what I would say is, the safety or the obligation for people to get around safely, particularly at night, is not just the responsibility of First Glasgow. 

"The public sector has a role to play and other businesses have a role to play, including the nighttime economy. 

"And that's - again - why we're a bit surprised at the level of the reaction because it's not representative of the level of engagement or the reaction in the sessions that we've had with, with those who were consulted with and who we sought support from."

Mr Cameron said he is "proud" of the steps taken by First Bus and First Glasgow to improve services for customers, pointing to the introduction of "tap on tap off", an investment in the electric fleet, driver training and in marketing to encourage people to use buses. 

But, he said, elements outwith the operator's control affect journey times and - such as congestion on the roads - and must be tackled by local authorities.

One route has seen soaring operating costs due due to its journey time increasing by 34% because of congestion. 

Mr Cameron said: "If journey speeds during the day were quicker we could operate services more efficiently, which means we could spread drivers wider. 

"We would be able to offer a more an even more comprehensive network than we can and I'm not just talking late night buses here, I'm talking potentially other links that don't exist and more frequencies, and we'll get to some of that."

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Some of the people making comments like that, it just shows they don't understand the industry or they don't understand the pressures we face because you know they are getting involved at the point a decision's announced, not when there's an opportunity to engage and try and resolve it.

A bus route change is currently going through a Traffic Commissioner registration process and will see improvements to a service that moves 600,000 people a month and serves education, retail and leisure stops.

The change is expected to take place from August 20 and the bus boss described it as "positive news" that will be announced in the coming weeks, giving the "full picture" of why the night bus service is being removed. 

Mr Cameron said: "Public transport use is growing and we need to keep at a pace with passenger demand. 

"And the vast vast majority of that passenger demand is not at night, or not on a late night bus. 

"In terms of climate change, we are running the risk of suppressing passenger movement demand [by not allocating drivers to day time services] and then moving people during the day back to cars because they can't get on a bus or the bus is full." 

Mr Cameron described calls for buses to be nationalised as coming with an "element of hypocrisy".

He said: "It's coming from individuals who don't get involved when there's opportunities to sit down and try and improve the bus. 

"You've got public transport modes that exist in Glasgow under public ownership, which don't even operate as late as the buses, and they'll be good reasons for that and that not in any way meant as a swipe. 

"But why would anybody think if existing modes don't operate on a private model they will suddenly operate differently under public ownership?"

Instead, he said, it is up to the Scottish Government and local authorities to free up road space and bus priority on the roads to speed up journey times and efficiency. 

He added: "Congestion times, journey times - none of that changes no matter whose name's above the door.

"I would reinforce the point that this is about increasing volume and putting supply on where more people demand it. 

"And we will be increasing services so we'll be operating more mileage as a result of all these changes. 

"But I think there's a danger that all the good work that's happening across the Glasgow public transport network, which affects thousands and thousands more people, has been lost here."

The question, of course, on everyone's lips is whether there is a chance of a night bus u-turn.

It seems unlikely but Mr Cameron added: "We will continue to engage and do so with an open mind."