Significant changes are to be made to bus services in Bradley Stoke from September, following the decision of Wessex Connect to discontinue the U7 and U8 that currently provide the only daytime services between the south of Bradley Stoke and Bristol city centre.
South Gloucestershire Council (SGC) has announced the introduction of a new number 74 service, which will replace the existing evenings and weekends-only 73B service and “run at all times [of the day]”. The new service, to be operated by First Group, will run along the same route as the existing 73B, with a 20-minute frequency during the day on weekdays.
At the same time, the 73 service, also operated by First Group, will have its frequency cut from “every 12 minutes” to “every 20 minutes” during the day from Monday to Friday.
Along common sections of the 73/74 routes, i.e. between the Aztec West Roundabout and Manor Farm Roundabout on Brook Way, and along Orpheus Avenue, there will be a combined frequency of “every 10 minutes” during the day on weekdays, “every 15 minutes” during the day on Saturdays and “every 30 minutes” on Sundays, public holidays and in the evenings.
Stops on Brook Way between Manor Farm Roundabout and Orpheus Avenue will, however, see a drop in frequency from “every 12 minutes” to “every 20 minutes” during the day on weekdays, while those on Braydon Avenue (previously served by the U7 and U8) will be left with no direct connection to Bristol city centre.
Passengers travelling from Bradley Stoke North to the city centre are likely to see their journey times increased by at least five minutes if they choose to take the new 74 service (compared to the 73), due to the longer route length around Bradley Stoke South and the time taken to pass through the Willow Brook Centre.
The X73 peak hours-only express service will remain unaffected by the changes.
One Bradley Stoke South bus campaigner, Helen, told The Journal:
“I’m really pleased that this has been agreed (although the timetables are yet to be published). However, I’m disappointed that it does not follow the same route as the current U8 and, therefore, leaves those service users in Filton and Little Stoke without public transport and also does not cater for those in Bradley Stoke who need to get to Filton College, Airbus, Rolls-Royce etc.”
“On a more positive note, it is a bus service [for Bradley Stoke South]! I just hope that First Group meet their agreed commitments and that the new service is publicised well to ensure that it becomes well used.”
Conservative Councillors for Bradley Stoke South, Rob Jones and John Ashe, who have been campaigning for an improved local bus network, said:
“We needed something in place for September to ensure that our residents who wish to travel by bus were not left completely stranded once Wessex Connect had withdrawn its U7 and U8 services, as the company had previously announced it planned to do.”
“Officers working in SGC’s Integrated Transport Unit advise that this new 74 service will be a better service for those residents living in the southern part of Bradley Stoke wanting to access the city.”
“We would certainly encourage residents to let us have their comments on this and on other ways that we can work together with the Council and the bus industry to create the sort of comprehensive, affordable and commercially-operated bus network for all of Bradley Stoke because a community of our size really needs it.”
Wessex Connect’s current U7 and U8 services were described as “rubbish” by the then Conservative Mayor of Bradley Stoke Cllr Ben Walker at a meeting of the Town Council’s Planning Committee in April.
Despite that put down, SGC stepped in to subsidise the services until September, in order to allow time for a “commercial” replacement to be organised.
SGC has so far refused to disclose how much it is paying to Wessex Connect for maintaining the services during the interim period, citing “commercial confidentiality”.
Cllr Walker, who has since defected to UKIP, recently blogged that he believes bus services and utilities should never have been sold off and de-regulated by previous Conservative Governments.
The Journal understands that the new 74 service will be subsidised at a similar level to the previous 73B service, which cost local taxpayers £71,127 in the financial year 2010/11.
Related link: Bus services in Bradley Stoke (The Journal)