178 bus service saved

First has abandoned plans for now to scrap the 178 bus route from Radstock to Bristol bus station via Keynsham.

The company has released more details to local councils of timetable changes on around 30 routes which are due to come into effect on 30th January. But that list no longer includes the 178 which provides a lifeline link for villages south of Keynsham as well as students attending St Brendan’s Sixth Form College.

When The Week In first broke the news in Issue 708 (8th December), First had originally proposed to withdraw the 178 and replace it with a new service which would terminate in Keynsham. The cuts were blamed on the lack of funding from the government’s Bus Recovery Grant.

There had been plans to remove the service and replace it with number 172 between Radstock and Keynsham. Passengers would then have had to change to the 349 to get into Bristol.

Metro Mayor Dan Norris, who leads the West of England Combined Authority (which is the transport authority) confirmed that it has agreed to restore the current timetable of the 178 service between 30th January 30th and 24th April.

He said:  “I know just how important the 178 service is – it provides a vital direct link between some of the rural and semi-rural communities in North-East Somerset and the centre of Bristol.

“While I’m delighted to retain the No 178 I’m also aware there isn’t a bottomless pot of money. I am well aware of the pressures that COVID is placing on our bus services, that’s why I’ve been calling on the government to step up to the plate and provide the funding shot in the arm to help retain bus services for other communities.”

North of the river, the 37 from Bristol to Bath along the A431 through Bitton will still be withdrawn at the end of this month. School journeys will be renumbered to OS1 and will continue to operate between Hanham and Oldfield School.

But changes to the route and timetable of the 45 Cherry Gardens to Bristol City Centre service are designed to mitigate some of the effects by providing a connection at Cherry Gardens with the 19 bus that links Bath and Cribbs Causeway.

It has also been revealed that evening and weekend buses will be restored on the No 5 route which runs from Bristol to Downend.

Councillors Liz Brennan, Ben Burton and James Griffiths, who represent the Frenchay and Downend ward, which includes Bromley Heath, said: “We are pleased that our campaign for WECA to reverse the changes made to the No 5 service has seen success and that local people will be able to use the service again on evenings and weekends.

“It is disappointing, however, that the WECA Mayor has ignored our calls for the service to return to Bromley Heath and has let down residents by allowing the black hole in transport provision to cut the community off further than it already has.

“We will continue to press WECA for bus services in Bromley Heath, whether that is the return of the Number 5 or redirecting metrobus.”

Meanwhile from the end of the month the 17 service between Keynsham and Southmead Hospital will no longer go along Ellacombe Road and Court Farm Road in Longwell Green, operating directly via Bath Road instead. In Kingswood, after Moravian Road the service will operate via Downend Road and Soundwell Road instead of Soundwell Road and Lodge Road.

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