DRIVER shortages have left bus passengers across Ayrshire counting the cost of dozens of cancelled journeys this week - with some commuters claiming they have missed hospital appointments and lost out on wages due to delayed services.

Stagecoach West Scotland has been forced to scrap several journeys in North, South, and East Ayrshire - with the number 11 route between Ardrossan and Kilmarnock being severely impacted.

Today alone, 18 scheduled journeys from Ardrossan to Kilmarnock, and vice versa, have been pulled from service, while the number one (Kilmarnock-Priestland), number four (Kilmarnock-Ayr/Glasgow), number 18 (Saltcoats/Stevenston), number 50 (Cumnock-Kilmarnock), and number 76 (Kilmarnock-Cumnock) have also been affected.

The current issues with the services come during Scottish Bus Week (May 23-29), as a Stagecoach campaign encouraged Scots to "ditch their cars and try the bus".

To pile on the public transport misery, ScotRail slashed hundreds of weekday trains across the country amid a pay row with drivers.

The recently nationalised rail service is indefinitely cutting the services – accounting for about a third of trains from Monday-Friday.

Meanwhile, Saturday and Sunday services will operate at about two-thirds of normal capacity.

READ MOREScotRail Ayrshire trains: which services will be cut in temporary timetable

Stagecoach announced an increase in fares at the beginning of the month, adding an average of 4.8 per cent onto the cost of bus travel, with the company attributing the higher prices as a reflection of "the rising costs of running services".

Regular passenger Savannah Knowles contacted the Herald to complain about the cancellation of several buses in the area, particularly on the number 11 route.

She said: "Prices went up two weeks ago and suddenly we see a massive decline in transportation, where children are being late for school and people are missing hospital appointments due to this."

An update published on the Stagecoach website today (May 25) said: "Due to staff shortages in North and East Ayrshire some journeys will be affected.

"Our team is working hard to ensure that service reductions are minimal and wherever possible will avoid peak services.

"We would like to thank our customers for their patience at this time."

One social media user Tweeted her frustration this morning (Wednesday), asking: "How is this acceptable?"

Apologising for the inconvenience, Stagecoach West Scotland replied: "We are trying to recruit more drivers to get a lasting fix to the driver shortage, in the meantime we are trying to provide information in advance to aid in journey planning."

Another local commented that she "must have lost an average of half [an] hour off my wages every week" due to the "unreliable" bus services.

A Stagecoach West Scotland spokesperson told the Herald: "Bus networks across the UK are continuing to face challenges as a result of the pandemic, as well as changes in the labour market and the impact of rising cost inflation in the economy.

"We remain absolutely committed to working with the Scottish Government and local authority partners, as well as other stakeholders, to deliver the best networks we can for local communities, taking account of the current difficult environment and the changes we have seen in when and how people travel.

"We are also working around the clock to recruit new drivers to address the shortages affecting the wider transport and logistics sector. It can take an average of 12 weeks for a professional bus driver to be fully trained and out on the road, and our training school is progressing this as speedily as possible.

"We're recruiting for trainee bus drivers and PCV licence holders across our seven depots throughout Ayrshire, Cumbernauld and Dumfries, we would encourage those with a driving licence to visit our website for further information on how to apply.

"The great majority of journeys continue to operate as scheduled, however, there are some short-term changes as a result of the changeable number of staff available to operate our services on a daily basis. All service changes are communicated on our website each day."