WHEN First Bus left Bolton in August this year passengers hoped that services would improve.

But, as the failing firm was replaced with West Midlands outfit Diamond Buses it became clear that such a major switch would bring new problems.

Since the new company took over operations on the town’s buses and the running of the Weston Street depot, passengers have struggled with late services, numerous cancellations and a severe lack of drivers.

Bosses at Diamond admit they have failed to provide a good service and say the problem is mostly due to a lack of staff — an issue they inherited from First.

They say that when the routes changed hands they also lost responsibility for Vantage buses, previously run from Bolton.

When these services were moved out of the Weston Street depot the drivers went too, meaning they could no longer be used to cover other routes on busy days or when people were off work.

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As a result, Diamond say they were left 60 drivers short and have spent the intervening months trying to employ new staff to fill these vacancies.

To date, the company has employed 30 new drivers although these have to be put through a training programme to learn the routes which can take between four and five weeks.

READ MORE: Diamond Bus bosses reveal what's gone wrong and plan to improve: Full statement

However, passengers say the situation is becoming unworkable.

Melanie Cooper works at Marks & Spencer in the town centre and gets the 582 bus from Leigh to Bolton Interchange each morning, which she says is regularly late.

“I have been using this bus service a long time, First weren’t very good but they promised that Diamond would be better and they are absolutely appalling,” she said.

“There are hundreds of people fed up and cheesed off. I have never known anything like it. The buses just never turn up and they are awful.”

Mrs Cooper, 49, says the bus station has become extremely busy during peak hours, especially when people are trying to get home, and that delayed or cancelled services can cause passengers to become frustrated.

“Things can get very aggressive, it’s very uncomfortable when everyone’s waiting like that, it’s so bad,” she said.

“There’s hundreds and hundreds of people trying to get the bus. If they are going to be so terrible it should be taken away from them.

“I work with people who are worried they are going to lose their jobs because they are getting in hours late.”

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Terence Orrell regularly uses bus services from Bolton Interchange and says that the quality and timeliness has reduced throughout the year.

“I don’t like Diamond, Firs Buses were doing a good job and now there are too many types of buses,” the 56-year-old said.

“You can be waiting here for ages and there’ll be so many different types of buses. People are getting confused now. One company would be better.”

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And, 71-year-old John Bourke says Britain should be looking to Europe to help improve its public transport system.

He said: “It’s not the bus company’s fault but I’ll be waiting for 25 minutes and then three will come at once.

“It’s just the same as First but it really needs to improve.

“If you look at countries like Germany and their infrastructure, they run really well. If you miss a bus, one will be there right away.”

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Nneka Mbonu says the buses are particularly poor later in the day when lots of people are trying to get home and that the buses tend to run more slowly than they used to.

The 38-year-old said: “Sometimes they are too late and sometimes they come too early.

“Today it was quick but often it is very slow, especially in the afternoon.”

When Diamond took control of the routes previously run by First they also acquired around 500 members of staff and leased 125 buses in a deal believed to be worth about £5.3m.

Theses buses mostly operate on the same routes at the same times, with a few changes since the new company took control.

Diamond’s parent company, transport firm Rotala, began in Birmingham and has been expanding its operations in recent years.

On taking control of a large chunk Bolton’s bus network in August, the firm moved to shore up its finances by selling an additional £1.1m of shares in order to reduce some of the debt it has built up buying new assets.

However, Diamond were not the only company to profit from the failure of First.

Newly created operator Go North West — owned by transport giant Go-Ahead Group — took control of First’s operations from the Queen’s Road depot in Manchester.

While this £11m deal did not include many services operating in Bolton it did involve taking over routes in Worsley and Radcliffe, although bus timetables remained the same for the most part. Go North West has also promised to spend £3m over the next year on improving buses.