Bus service changes being proposed by Wessex Connect look set to leave the whole of Bradley Stoke South without a daytime bus service for six days of the week.
In a press release put out today, the bus company has announced its intention to withdraw services U7, U7A. U8 and the Monday-Saturday service of the 482/483, with effect from Sunday 20th May 2012.
The Council-subsidised Sunday and Bank Holiday service of the 482 will, however, continue “until further notice”.
The cuts will leave Bradley Stoke Way (south of Savages Wood Roundabout), Webbs Wood Road and Baileys Court Road without any bus services at all before around 7:30pm Monday through Saturday. After that time, the 73B, operated by First Bristol, provides an approximately hourly service.
On Sundays only, the 73B will continue to provide an all-day hourly service to the south of the town.
The axing of the 482 Chipping Sodbury to Cribbs Causeway service will leave no buses serving the stop on Webbs Wood Road near the junction with The Bluebells (except on Sundays), while the loss of the both the U7A and 483 will leave no buses at all serving the Aztec West Business Park and no buses travelling along Bradley Stoke Way between the Willow Brook Centre and Patchway Brook Roundabout (a stretch where a bus lane is about to be constructed as part of a package of road safety measures).
The axing of the U7, U7A and U8 will happen just ten months after Bradley Stoke South lost its through-the-day service to Bristol city centre when those new, less comprehensive, services replaced the former 71 and 72. When that change was originally proposed, the area was to be left without any Monday-Saturday daytime services at all but following protests from passengers and local Councillors, Wessex Connect agreed to change the route of the peak-time-only U8 so that it also visited the south of town.
Wessex Connect says it has been forced to make the cuts because of the challenges it faces in the current economic climate, citing continued cost increases and “limited opportunity to increase existing revenue without extortionate price increases”.
The bus company’s press statement justifies the move as follows:
“Following the recent decision by the Chancellor to continue with the Fuel Duty Rate increase planned for August 2012, along with the reduction in Bus Service Operator’s Grant by 20% from April 2012 and current increasing fuel costs, we have reviewed our network of services and ability to operate services within the current climate.”
“Discussions are taking place with local authorities in relation to these service withdrawals and should any agreement be reached for a continued operation of service(s), we will of course advise our customers accordingly. Wessex apologises for any inconvenience this may cause to our customers, however this is brought about by circumstances beyond our control.”
A number of users of the threatened services have already contacted The Journal to express their dismay at the proposals.
Linda Hanney told us:
“I live in Bradley Stoke South and work at Rolls-Royce. I had to surrender my driving licence last year after 38 years of driving because of failing eyesight. With the withdrawal of the U7, U8 and now the 482/483 bus ‘services’, I am now effectively cut off from my mother, who is in a care home in Yate, my father, my daughter (482/483), my place of work, my Doctor (Bradley Stoke Surgery), The Mall, central Bristol, Parkway Station, Tesco at Bradley Stoke, Sainsburys at Filton, as well as regular appointments in Little Stoke and Bradley Stoke North.”
Another passenger, Kim Tozer, said:
“This is going to make life difficult for myself and people who are non-drivers or do not have a car. I use the 6:47 from Baileys Court every morning and the 5:15 home. When this service started it meant more time in work and less time home with family.”
“The withdrawal of all services now means a bigger change. Commuting and general use of buses for many will involve a walk, for some of up to an hour. Impossible for someone who has limited mobility or is elderly. Not ideal in the dark winter either. The elderly, infirm or those with children will find it difficult to get to the bus. The elderly have already been made reliant on family and friends because of the lack of a bus after 7:30 am. It will mean people will have to drive or be driven to work or be driven to bus stops which will cause more road congestion.”
“Who wants to live in an area where there is no bus service, so close to a large town and shopping mall. The local Council has the audacity to suggest we leave our cars at home and use public transport – great! Where is it?”
Operation of the U7, U7A and U8 services appears to have been far from trouble-free since their introduction in September 2011. According to passengers we have spoken to, buses frequently run late or don’t turn up at all. Then again, one passenger complained to a recent meeting of Patchway Town Council that the U7 and U8 buses often ran earlier than timetabled through Stoke Lodge. There have also been reports of drivers taking the wrong route and missing out stops or getting completely lost and ending up in some of the many cul-de-sacs in Bradley Stoke.
When The Journal’s photographer went out to snap the 9:21 U7 arriving in Webbs Wood Road this morning, he found UWE student Anya waiting at the stop. She said she had learned of the plan to axe the service through a hand-written note taped to the bus stop, adding:
“I use this service four times a week to get to my lessons at the University’s Frenchay campus. If they stop the U7, I’ll have to walk from here to the Kemperleye Way stop on Brook Way, catch the 73 to Sainsbury’s and walk again at the other end to UWE.”
The Journal asked South Gloucestershire Council, which oversees all bus services in the district, for a statement but they were unable to provide one in time for this article. However, an email (dated 28th March) sent from one of the Council’s Transport Officers to a concerned Bradley Stoke resident and forwarded to The Journal by the resident reads:
“We were made aware yesterday and had it confirmed via the VOSA website that Wessex Connect have applied to de-register these U7, U7a and U8 with effect from 20th May 2012. This will mean that there will be no service as things currently stand. It has been made known that the new services have not been covering the cost of provision and as they are run on commercial basis Wessex Connect have made this commercial decision.”
“As you are aware from the situation from the withdrawal of the 71/72 services there is not sufficient budget to replace these services but we will be in discussions with operators to investigate alternatives but cannot guarantee they will be in place before these services cease to operate.”
A spokesperson for South Gloucestershire Council later confirmed:
“We have been notified that Wessex have lodged paperwork with the Traffic Commissioner to withdraw these services from Sunday 20th May. Council officers are actively investigating the potential for alternative provision and will continue discussions with the operator about an interim solution.”
Opportunities to have your say about the proposed cuts
The elected South Gloucestershire Councillors for Bradley Stoke South are Robert Jones and John Ashe; their contact details can be found on the Council Members page of the Bradley Stoke Town Council website.
Bradley Stoke Town Council holds its next Councillor Surgery at the Willow Brook Centre between 10am and 12 noon on Saturday 7th April.
The next Town Council meeting is that of the Leisure, Amenities & Youth Committee on Monday 16th April at the Jubilee Centre (7:30pm start), where members of the public can have their say during a 15-minute session at the start of the meeting.
Contact details for Wessex Connect can be found here on their website.
Related link: Bus Services in Bradley Stoke (The Journal)
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