A former driver on a controversial subsidised bus service to the biggest airport in Wales has told how he would use special tablets and strong coffee to stay awake, Wales Eye can disclose.
The driver has revealed how he had to use the combination to combat fatigue and sleepiness.
Another rota was brought in by the new operator who consulted drivers, but they believe their wages are so low, a shift pattern was chosen to make up take-home pay.
The new rota has been leaked to Wales Eye.
It shows how drivers are sometimes given a day off only after a late shift and before an early start.
The rest day is then used to recuperate from the previous late shift and prepare for the next early one.
Drivers were offered a rota that was based on 17 drivers and 40 hours work per week.
However they chose a rota based on only 12 drivers to support their wages.
Even though the shift pattern is more demanding it offered them the opportunity to make up their take-home pay through regular overtime.
The bus service is run by New Adventure Travel (NAT) who issued the rota to drivers and are now in charge of it, as first disclosed by Wales Eye.
NAT have been operating the service for just over a week, after being awarded the new contract.
It was launched with great fanfare last year by the Welsh government in an apparent attempt to boost the numbers flying from the beleaguered airport.
But Wales Eye reported how the previous operators, First Cymru, paid some drivers below the living wage the Welsh government had themselves endorsed (see )
Among the incentives for drivers was ‘free’ uniforms.
Details of the change-over in contract from First Cymru to NAT were revealed by Wales Eye on July 18 but only reported by mainstream media outlets 11 days later (see ) once the Welsh government had formally released the news.
But deep unhappiness remains about the new operator.
One driver said: "We give an important service for the public, which has been publicly attacked."
"Morale is rock bottom."
A former driver told Wales Eye how he had to take special pills to keep his mind on the job under the previous contract-holders.
"Drivers were already reporting fighting fatigue and sleepiness under the old rota," he said.
"I had to use ProPlus tablets to try and stay alert, and drank copious amounts of strong coffee."
But apart from reports of ways to ward off drowsiness among some drivers previously, pay rates have been criticised.
Under First Cymru some drivers were paid just £7.50 an hour initially on the service.
Yet the Welsh Government had formally recognised the Living Wage which was set 15p an hour higher.
A public transport commentator Chris Ware said: "As drivers on a prestige, Welsh government-sponsored service like (the T9) they were asked by their employers to give a lot of added value to their customer service duties, so that a first class impression would be created with passengers to and from all parts of the world.
"In addition, the future of the T9 service would be secured.
"The drivers worked extremely hard to achieve this end and consistently received praise and appreciation from the passengers.
"They acted not only as drivers, but as ambassadors for Wales, tourist guides and hotel advisers!"
The bus service - which receives a subsidy of hundreds of thousands of pounds in public money - was launched last summer by Edwina Hart, AM, the Welsh business minister.
She was joined by a host of dignitaries.
Ms Hart rarely speaks to the media and Wales Eye revealed how she had not granted a live broadcast interview for more than three years (see ).
But in a press release at the time she said: “The Welsh Government’s vision for the development of Cardiff Airport includes making it easier for passengers to travel to and from the airport using public transport.
When the bus service was unveiled she added: "This service provides a modern, convenient and comfortable link to the city centre at a competitive price.”
But the service and the airport itself have hit the headlines.
On Friday it was announced the chief executive of the airport was stepping down.
Jon Horne was appointed a week after the airport was bought for £52m by the Welsh government in March last year, but will leave the role in a week’s time amid concerns about passenger numbers.
The Scottish government paid £1 for Prestwick airport which was similarly troubled.
It has been reported that in March this year, the airport saw a nine per cent increase in the number of passengers since being taken over, although this rise has been from a very low base.
There are still deep worries about the numbers who use the airport with one passenger describing it as a "wasteland."
Mr Horne said: "There is still much work to be done, but I have agreed with the chairman that a new perspective will be beneficial for the next stage of development and as such I have concluded my executive involvement."
In February a review by the transport expert, Professor Stuart Cole, found that the subsidised bus service has averaged fewer than four passengers a journey since it was launched.
It has been described as a ‘ghost bus’ and provision of the service will be reduced from every 20 minutes to every half hour in Winter months.
Passenger numbers at the airport itself have collapsed in the last few years.
They peaked at two million seven years ago, but in 2012 were just over a million, which was a drop of more than 200,000 in a year.
Speaking after the government announced the nationalisation deal, the Welsh first minister Carwyn Jones said it was vital the number of passengers increased.
Perhaps a choice of new rotas for drivers so they will not have to take pills to stay awake like the old days, might do the trick.