Bristol MP holds bus bosses to account after study reveals city services getting more unreliable

The study looked at delayed services, cancellations and ‘ghost’ buses
Bristol MP Darren Jones ran a three-month study on bus reliability in the cityBristol MP Darren Jones ran a three-month study on bus reliability in the city
Bristol MP Darren Jones ran a three-month study on bus reliability in the city

Bus reliability in Bristol has got worse despite operator FirstBus claiming there would be improvements following a driver recruitment campaign.

That’s the verdict of Bristol MP Darren Jones, who ran a three-month citizen science project, in which he asked passengers to log their experiences of waiting for buses at bus stops across Bristol North West.

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The study was part of the MP’s Better Buses or Bust! campaign, calling on his constituents in Bristol North West to help him gather the hard evidence needed to hold bus companies to account.

Passengers whose journeys started in Bristol North West were asked to share whether each of their journeys was on time, delayed (and by how much) or a ‘ghost bus’ – one that was shown on an app or the digital screen in a bus stop, but never materialised. The study ran from March 1 until May 31.

Mr Jones said: “For as long as I’ve been politically active in Bristol North West, which is more than a decade now, problems with bus services has been one of the biggest local concerns. My constituents don’t live in remote rural communities – they are residents of one of the UK’s biggest cities and deserve a well-oiled public transport system.”

The main driver behind the project was to put to the test a claim made by First Bus that reliability would improve from April.

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In a meeting held in late January, Doug Claringbold, the Managing Director of First Bus in the West of England, assured Mr Jones that bus reliability would improve from April.

Mr Claringbold said this improvement would be down to the success of their driver recruitment campaign, meaning the services that were cut in November could be reintroduced in April, and because First Bus is introducing new technology that will enable them to better timetable services.

But after the three-month study, the data reveals that bus reliability has got worse.

In March, passengers were unable to get on the bus they had been waiting for 39% of the time, and this rose to 64% in April/May.

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This includes cancellations, buses being too full to stop, passengers tiring of waiting for delayed services, and ‘ghost buses’.

Furthermore, of the First Bus services that did arrive, 7% were delayed by 15 minutes or more in March and this figure rose to 13% in April/May.

The campaign also revealed that about one in four of all First Bus journeys logged in March revealed a ghost bus, rising to about one in three journeys logged in April/May.

Mr Jones has now written to Mr Claringbold with the findings and asked for an explanation as to why bus reliability has got worse.

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Mr Jones said: “I’m someone who likes to deal with facts and hard evidence to hold companies to account. I knew from anecdotal reports from constituents that our buses are unreliable, but I’ve been genuinely taken aback by the stats in this campaign.”

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