Public meeting next week to discuss bus cuts

James Freeman

James Freeman

A public meeting will take place in Kingswood next Thursday (11th August) to discuss the controversial cuts to bus services.

Cllr Erica Williams, who chairs South Gloucestershire’s Public Transport Forum, has called the meeting which starts at 7pm at the Civic Centre.

She says she has been bombarded by residents about the cuts, receiving around 100 emails and 30 phone calls, with some people saying they fear for their jobs as they won’t be able to get to work.

James Freeman, managing director of First West of England, has confirmed he will attend the meeting and can expect to be quizzed about the axing of the 17a Southmead Hospital to Keynsham service, the re-routing of the 37 Bristol-Bath service via Keynsham instead of through Bitton, Swineford and Kelston, and the axing of the X74 (Bristol city centre to Bradley Stoke route).

Cllr Williams has also invited the Mayor of Bristol Marvin Rees as well as local MPs and council officers from South Glos, Bristol, B&NES to talk about the cuts which are due to kick in on 4th September.

Mr Freeman has already stated First has to do the best it can with the money it has available and that as part of the 1985 Transport Act local authorities are responsible for public transport requirements not met by commercial operators, of which First is just one.

First says the loss of Service 17a will chiefly affect people in Hillfields, parts of Kingswood, North Common, Oldland Common, Bitton and Willsbridge. Alternatives will be available, although some people will need to change buses if they wish to travel to Southmead Hospital.

Cllr Erica Williams has called the meeting

Cllr Erica Williams has called the meeting

The bus company says the 16 will provide a partial replacement for Service 17a along Courtney Road, Westons Way and Cock Road, offering journeys to and from Bristol Parkway and Hanham. Service 42 will provide connections between North Common, Oldland Common, Bitton and Kingswood from where it will be possible to change onto Service 17 buses for onward journeys to the hospital.

People in Hillfields will need to use either a combination of Service 6 and Service 17 buses to reach the hospital, or walk to stops on Staple Hill Road to pick up Service 17 directly.

South Gloucestershire Green Party is backing the petition that has been set up to save the 17a, which so far has more than 250 signatures. The party said: “Privatised public transport has failed our communities once again.”

There is also a petition against the re-routing of the 37 Bristol to Bath service.

Speaking on Radio Bristol Cllr Williams appreciated that First had to make a profit to run its business but did not accept the company’s statistics of low usage on some services.

As a frequent bus user as she doesn’t drive, she said that on many occasions, she – and people who had contacted her about the issue – were just waved onto the bus by the driver without needing to show their travel card so not all journeys were being logged.

Cllr Williams said First’s consultation had not included specific bus routes:  “If you are unaware of what is going on it then comes to this stage and I would like to thank The Week In for actually bringing it to people’s attention because otherwise we wouldn’t know.”

She said that local authorities needed to work collectively as services cross local authority boundaries and they had a duty of care to all those who require bus travel: “Hopefully we will try and resolve this in some way.”

Speaking to The Week In, she said: “I have had a great response from your readers which shows the level of concern and frustration about the cuts to the service 37 and 17a. Even readers living in Hillfields have called to state that they get on the 17a and it is standing room only at 9.50am.  They will have to walk to Staple Hill to get a bus to Southmead Hospital in the near future which again is wholly unacceptable.

“People will be forced into their cars by these cuts, or worse lose jobs.”

Also likely to be discussed at next Thursday’s meeting will be the loss of the x18 Kingswood to Southmead Hospital service which stopped running this week. There have been complaints that there was no obvious notification to customers of the change on the buses or at bus stops.

Meanwhile Bath Bus Company this week announced it will step in to run two evening journeys to Keynsham’s Park Estate, filling part of the gap that will be left by First’s cuts to the 38 Bristol-Bath service from 4th September.

The 38 will stop serving the estate in the evening and on Sundays. The service will also be reduced from Monday to Friday daytime to once an hour instead of every half hour.

(An error in First’s press release has come to light this week. In it the bus company said the 38 wouldn’t continue to run to the Park Estate on Saturdays but it has now been confirmed it will, on an hourly basis.)

Bath Bus Company, which runs the A4 Air Decker, has agreed that two evening services – departing from Bath at 7.30pm and 8.30pm Monday to Saturday – will serve the Park Estate.

petition against cuts to the 38 has almost 700 signatures and a petition has also been launched urging First to keep the “well-used” 178 bus serving Keynsham’s Chandag estate. The 178 connects Bristol to Bath via Peasedown St John, Radstock, Midsomer Norton, Paulton and Keynsham. The route is being altered to run along Wellsway so will no longer serve the Chandag estate.

The petition says residents will be forced to walk to bus stops on Wellsway or Bath Road which for some isn’t practical or possible.