A councillor has warned that parts of Bristol will have soon have to rely on a ‘Third World’-style bus service as sweeping cuts and alterations to First routes across the city come into force this weekend.
No fewer than 25 services will see a reduction in frequency or be scrapped entirely from Sunday (April 24) due to the changes, which First Bus says are needed due to ongoing driver shortages and dwindling passenger numbers.
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Nine services in South Bristol are affected, an area which residents often complain is ‘forgotten’, ‘abandoned’ and ‘singled out’ when it comes to public transport links.
Councillor Richard Eddy, Tory councillor for Bishopsworth, said: “The cut-backs by First Group, particularly in South Bristol, risk reducing whole communities to having a ‘Third World’-style of bus service.
“Especially when local councils are urging people to ‘save-the-planet’ and reduce air-borne pollution by embracing public transport and ditching the car, this approach is senseless.”
Particular concern was sparked over plans to scrap sections of Service 92, leaving parts of Whitchurch entirely cut off, which led to a campaign by residents and Lib Dem Councillor Tim Kent of Hengrove and Whitchurch Park ward to save it.
Metro Mayor Dan Norris has since stepped in to salvage the route, announcing that he had pinned down CT Plus who will operate a service between Hengrove Park and Broad Walk shops from April 27 until August until a long-term solution can be found.
Up in Kingswood, where Services 6, 7 and 43 are affected, outraged residents slammed the cuts as ‘unacceptable’ with the potential to affect jobs.
Tish Mantripp said: “I’ve been getting a mixture of 42, 43, 7 and 6 to and from work this last month mainly around midday to late at night and the buses are always packed, so why on earth would you think of cutting the amount of buses on all four routes?
“If the timetable is massively disrupted I will have to stop working in town and look for work closer to Kingswood or out of town where I could drive and park easily. In a time of finance struggle for all the community this is bonkers.”
What First Bus said
In a statement, Doug Claringbold, managing director of First West of England, said ongoing issues with driver availability meant changes were needed to ensure reliable services in Bristol.
He said: “A number of services will see temporary reductions in frequency whilst passenger and driver numbers are constrained but unfortunately there are a number of services that are not commercially viable even at pre-pandemic passenger levels.
“As a result we are having to make difficult decisions to act on these poor performing routes and ensure that our resources are focused on the areas of the greatest need.
“Wherever routes have been curtailed or cut, these were difficult decisions and we apologise to all customers who will be adversely impacted.
“We need to make these adjustments to be able to ensure the overall viability of our network in what remain very challenging and uncertain conditions, and we will continue to work closely with the West of England Combined Authority and other stakeholders as we navigate this difficult path.”