‘I have to get an Uber’ - bus users in Bristol share real-life impact of cuts to services

A further round of cuts will happen in April
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Bus passengers across Bristol have revealed more misery following cuts to the city’s services, - ahead of more to come this spring.

Last year, BristolWorld heard from Sue Hillier who was worried she’d become left isolated in her village, Deborah Didcott who questioned how she’d get to hospital and Pat Bessell who feared he’d no longer be able to get to work.

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That was before cuts made in October with the 5, 71, 72a, X2, Y3, Y4 and Y5 services all withdrawn. This April, a further 42 services are set to be axed after political leaders decided to stop supporting most of the region’s loss-making routes.

Today, we hear from more people impacted by the the cuts to services, which have also been hampered by unreliability. These passengers include a student worrying about getting to his A-level exams later this year, an NHS clinician forced to cancel patient appointments because of late buses, and a young mother stranded in the freezing cold with her toddler.

Not all the passengers spoken to agreed Bristol’s bus services were “terrible”, with one person saying the services here had actually improved recently. First Bus, the city’s largest operator, said its services were improving and many more buses will be running from this April.

Sam Newington-Wise, a student, said: “I live in Filton and go to sixth form in Thornbury. Getting there was a pain as is, but back in March last year they cancelled the T2 service, which goes right past a road very near my house. Now I either have to rely on lifts from people or being dropped to one of the T1 bus stops, which is a 15–20 minute drive from my house. Those buses also only come every half hour, if you’re lucky. As I’m taking my A-Levels in a few months, the getting to sixth form part of the experience worries me.”

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An NHS clinician, who asked to remain anonymous, said: “I have to get the bus daily to work in North Somerset due to the fact that I have epilepsy and hence have no option but to get public transport, as I can’t currently drive. I work as a clinician in the NHS, usually either in Clevedon, Nailsea or Portishead, I have to get an Uber approximately every two weeks due to buses not arriving, costing £25 each time, which is becoming very difficult considering the cost of living.

A woman looks out of the window of a First Bus in central Bristol.A woman looks out of the window of a First Bus in central Bristol.
A woman looks out of the window of a First Bus in central Bristol.

“I’m not going to be able to manage long term, and it is putting an ungodly amount of stress on what is already a very stressful time working for the NHS. There have been times where I’ve had to cancel some early patient appointments because of bus cancellations or being very late.”

Jayne Wright, from Frampton Cotterell, said: “My son has a learning disability and goes to Elm Tree Farm in Stapleton. He had local authority travel training to use the bus, but all the bus services to the farm have now been cancelled. That means all the service users plus the volunteers can no longer travel there by bus. Now the staff drive him and others to Tesco at Eastgate to get a bus, then we meet the bus in Downend to drive him home to Frampton Cotterell. One bus journey now involves two car trips and takes an hour and a half. He has no alternative.”

Asphodel Denning, who works in higher education, said: “Fewer and more sporadic bus services also means that every bus you do catch is absolutely packed. I’ve lost count of the times I’ve had to stand, holding my squirming toddler more often than not, for upwards of 20 minutes until the bus clears out enough to find a seat. Now that I’m pregnant again I’ve become more assertive about asking for a seat, but it’s still ridiculous that anyone should have to stand for longer than a couple of minutes.

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“With a pram it’s even worse, as there’s often no room to manoeuvre or park it, and you end up evicting a handful of understandably annoyed people who now have to join the mob of passengers standing in an even tighter space. For those who require the use of wheelchairs or other mobility aids I can only imagine that this is even worse.

“I contacted First Bus twice over their dire service. Both were due to buses not showing up for over an hour, with no warning or explanation either time, in the middle of winter. I had my then-infant son with me both times, as well, and still get flashbacks of guilt for keeping him outside in the freezing cold for so long, but as I had no other method for getting home I was stuck.

“I used the complaint form on their site to explain what happened, and both times received, weeks later, only an extremely brief ‘sorry’ and a voucher for a single bus ride; nothing about how they’d aim to improve their services or any agreement that it was unacceptable.”

Responding to these accounts, First Bus said its service was improving, and will “significantly increase” the number of buses running from April.

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A spokesperson for First West of England said: “We always aim to ensure that our customers have a good experience when travelling with us. We operate over 35,000 journeys and carry well over 1 million passengers every week, and we receive many commendations from our customers for the professionalism and level of service from our drivers and other staff.

“We don’t always get things right, but the reliability and punctuality of our services has improved significantly and everyone at First West of England is committed to delivering great service. Our driver recruitment campaign and high levels of staff retention are enabling us to improve our service, and we are looking forward to a significant increase in the number of buses being operated from early April, when we next update our timetables. Details of these changes will be confirmed in the coming weeks.”

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