At a packed public meeting held at Cherry Garden Primary School last night, James Freeman, managing director of First in Bristol, announced that the company is proposing to replace this section of the route by diverting the 17A Keynsham to Southmead Hospital service.
And the 42 (Keynsham-Kingswood-Bristol) service will no longer go to Keynsham but will terminate at Cherry Gardens instead.
The 42, which runs every 20 minutes for around 18 hours a day, is packed between the city centre and Kingswood but on the Oakleigh Gardens, Cherry Garden Lane and Kenilworth Drive section, there are usually fewer than 10 people on board.
The route currently has 82 double-deckers going past Cherry Garden Primary School and over the weak, narrow bridge that crosses the Bristol & Bath Railway Path. Vehicles have been seen mounting the pavement when passing a bus and sometimes the 42s coming in opposite directions pass, sparking concerns about the increased risk to pedestrian safety, particularly schoolchildren.
Mr Freeman told last night’s meeting there had been two factors behind the 42 route change in March. It was to compensate in part for the withdrawal of the 533 previously operated by Wessex under tender. The other reason was because double-deckers are no longer allowed under the railway bridge on the A431 at Willsbridge after Network Rail imposed a height restriction change.
Even though a 14ft 5in double-decker fits under the bridge, where there was previously a triangular advice sign stating that it was not suitable for vehicles over 14ft 3in, the sign has been changed to a warning one. Any taller double-decker that goes under it is breaking the law.
The managing director said that a route risk assessment had been carried out before the change to the 42 service had been introduced but First ”recognised the issue” that had brought so many people to the public meeting. He hoped the new proposal would go a long way towards addressing people’s worries.
The details of the amended 17A route are still being finalised but it is expected that it will run hourly from around 5.30am until the late evening, and between about 9am and 6pm on Sundays. Mr Freeman said the company would try to take account of the school run at Cherry Garden Primary when it reschedules the timetable.
People only have until next Tuesday, 26th May, to comment on the new proposals. The short consultation time is because bus must be registered with a minimum of 56 days’ notice and the next round of timetable changes in the Bristol area are due to come into effect on 23rd August.
Comments can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org or made in writing to First Customer Services, Empress Road, Southampton, Hampshire SO14 OJW.
Last night’s meeting ended with a round of applause with the general feeling from local people that their concerns had been listened to. Resident Ken Ballard said First had come up with a “reasonable compromise”, with the benefit of the direct link to Southmead Hospital for the estate.