A bus travel survey conducted during October on The Journal’s website and Facebook page has revealed high levels of dissatisfaction with the reliability and punctuality of the 73, X73 and X74 services that link Bradley Stoke with Cribbs Causeway and Bristol city centre.
The survey, which is ongoing and has so far attracted more than 200 comments, was initiated in response to frequent complaints about the 73 and X73 services on social media during September. The results so far paint a bleak picture of buses failing to run to the published timetable, taking much longer than scheduled to reach their destinations and sometimes failing to turn up at all or terminating short of their final destination.
A number of readers have claimed that the services in general have deteriorated (from already poor levels) since a new timetable was introduced at the beginning of September, when the new X74 route was introduced.
The majority of complaints relate to morning and evening peak hour services, but problems have been reported at all times of the day and night, with “no shows” being reported as late as 10pm, long after the commuter traffic has died down.
A large number of complaints relate to the peak hours only X73 service, with readers reporting that the 07.15 journey from Cribbs Causeway to Bristol regularly arrives nearly 30 minutes late in the city centre, while the return journey at 16:25 is frequently late and sometimes doesn’t turn up at all.
The survey also reveals problems with the 22.05 73 journey from the city centre, which often turns up 30 minutes late with the driver saying the bus will terminate at Parkway Station instead of Cribbs Causeway.
The Journal made First West of England aware that we had started the survey and, after it had been running for just over a week, we provided the operator with a summary of the findings.
The company provided us with an overarching statement (below), as well as detailed responses to the points raised in the summary findings. A selection of these responses is shown below, along with a link to the summary survey findings and full set of responses from First.
A First West of England company spokesperson said:
We are extremely sorry that people trying to use our services in and around Bradley Stoke have experienced problems in recent weeks and months. There have been multiple issues affecting our services, some of our making and some not.
In the latter category is the effect of traffic congestion and in particular the impact of road works in and around the city, which have hindered our ability to operate to time. We would like to assure our customers though that we take these issues incredibly seriously and we are already doing everything within our power to resolve them as quickly as possible.
While we would love to promise a quick solution to these issues, in some cases this will not be possible. We will, however, work with our partners in the local authorities to do everything we can to restore peoples’ faith in the service as quickly as we can.
Selected comments from Journal readers
Matt W: It’s gotten terrible (more so than usual) recently. Buses don’t turn up & when they do (always late) there are generally two of them. Not good enough.
Steve H: I get the train as of today, after 5 years of unreliable buses, x73, 73 etc… Had enough!
Nick B: Left work at 20.00 at The Mall last week 21.00 still no bus and was told it didn’t show up till 21.30.
Claire D: 16.25 X73 [from Bristol] is ALWAYS late now it has changed times. Assuming that it bothers to turn up that is.
Kris B: I regularly get the 20.35 73 from Cribbs to Bradley Stoke in the evening and in the last two weeks there have been four ‘no shows’. Getting fed up now. Why bother advertising the service on a timetable if it is not going to show up?
Chrissie M: My 15 year old daughter was left waiting for over an hour for the 73 from Parkway to Bradley Stoke in the cold and wet. This is totally unacceptable – First should be ashamed.
Gordon C: The 73 service from Bradley Stoke to Gloucester Road, must be the most unreliable bus service I have had the misfortune to use!
Jim: I understand that there is little First can do about heavy traffic, but as a bare minimum I think we ought to demand that the “real-time” information is accurate so that everybody knows the situation. The current displays seem to operate in a time warp.
Robert D: Wife missed her train today as 73 bus was 45 mins late.
Claire C: The 22.05 73 from the Centre failed to turn up tonight. Since the bus service was “improved” in September the reliability has been shocking.
Rich: Absolutely livid. Waiting from 21.50 for the 22.05 73 home. It arrives at 22.30 but only goes to Parkway. I query this and am told by the driver that I’m the problem, I’m making him late by enquiring like this.
Simon: In the past 3 weeks, I don’t think one 73/x73 has arrived on time. All too often two 73s and an X73 arrive within a few minutes of each other (07.04, Winsbury Way) and, not over the 20 minute gap that should exist.
Clare: The 16.50 X73 from Rupert Street didn’t turn up again tonight. It was showing on the First Bus app as being on time but then just disappeared once 1 minute to it arriving had passed.
Margaret W: Waited 55 mins this morning at the bus stop at Parkway. No 73 again. It’s getting stupid.
Kerry McC: Nice for 73 bus to finally show up! Only had to wait 41 minutes…not very happy.
Marie-Anne: can’t believe that still after all traffic has gone, 3 scheduled no. 73 never showed up. Had to call a taxi, cheers first bus!
Selected responses from First West of England
Punctuality in general
Our data shows that the punctuality of Service 73 and X73 has dipped slightly in recent weeks. This is due in part to higher than normal levels of traffic congestion. For instance we have seen higher than normal traffic flows to and from the MOD site in Filton at peak hours, which is increasing congestion on the ring road and Great Stoke Way. The M32 traffic flow has also been increased which has impacted on Services X73 and X74.
There are currently an abundance of road works in and around the city which are having an impact on services.
To put some context on the punctuality figures, the data we have for October shows the following:
- 77% of Service 73 buses started on time
- 78% of Service X73s started on time
- 86% of Service X74s started on time
The biggest single factor affecting the start time punctuality of the bus is whether or not the previous journey – completed by the same bus – was on time on not. If it was affected by severe congestion then it can have a knock on effect on subsequent journeys.
Real-time passenger information (RTPI) boards
There are a number of issues affecting the electronic display boards at present. Firstly, there’s an issue which means that not all of the buses track properly. Specifically at the moment we – and our colleagues in the Council – are seeking ways to address this but on average two buses in every 10 do not display on the system. The problem is a national one, and the solution can only be found by various organisations, namely Omni, Vix and Almex, working together.
Secondly, there is a problem with the RTPI screen and the associated tracking of the buses near the Willow Brook Centre in Bradley Stoke. This relates to the sensor for the bus stop being effectively located in the wrong place. This means it doesn’t accurately know where the buses are in relation to it. The problem has been identified and will be fixed within the next three weeks.
Thirdly, in relation to cancelling buses from the RTPI screens, or adding other messages. We do possess the ability to cancel buses from the screens if for instance something goes wrong during a journey (the bus breaks down or has to be taken out of service). I am not aware of an issue with buses then showing as a timetabled journey.
Morning X73 services to city centre
Our data shows that 89% of morning journeys on Service X73 begin their journey on time but then get delayed on the journey. We will look at this and adjust the timetable to make it more reliable for the future. Note such changes cannot be made immediately – they must be planned effectively, with a minimum of 56 days notice given to the traffic commissioner. We are also only permitted to make changes to bus services in / around Bristol on set dates throughout the year. The next planned service change (aside from 2nd November) will be next spring (March 2015, with the changes registered in January 2015).
The Bradley Stoke Journal’s bus travel survey is continuing
– please send us your comments!
We are asking users of the 73, X73 and X74 services to record punctuality, actual journey times and “no show” events, either here on our website (by leaving a comment on this article), on The Journal’s Facebook page (by sending a message or leaving a comment on this post), via The Journal’s Twitter feed or by texting The Journal on 01454 300 400.
Please be sure to tell us which service you were using, direction (e.g. to/from city centre or Cribbs Causeway), where you got on and off and the timetabled/actual times of departure and arrival (if known).
This article originally appeared in the November 2014 edition of the Bradley Stoke Journal news magazine, delivered FREE, EVERY MONTH, to 9,450 homes in Bradley Stoke, Little Stoke and Stoke Lodge. Phone 01454 300 400 to enquire about advertising or leaflet insertion.
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