James Freeman, the new boss of the First West of England, has conceded that the quality of service on Bradley Stoke’s 73 bus route has sunk to an “unacceptable” level and says his company plans to introduce a “completely different sort of timetable” on 29th March.
The remarks came in an interview on BBC Radio Bristol’s John Darvall programme on 11th December, in response to a bus user from Bradley Stoke who phoned in to quiz Mr Freeman about a 73 bus that failed to turn up (at 22.05) for her return journey from Bristol city centre after she had attended an evening concert at the Colston Hall.
Mr Freeman told the caller:
“It’s clearly ridiculous that we expect people to wait when we’ve said there is going to be a service and there isn’t one. That is useless – I absolutely accept that and we have to do something about it.”
He went on to say:
“What we’ve been doing is to work quickly to put a completely different sort of timetable in [place] for the 73. The problem we have is that we can’t just clap our hands and make that happen – there are administrative and regulatory hurdles that we have to step through.”
Mr Freeman blamed the issues currently being experienced on the service (evidenced by more than 300 complaints and observations recorded on the BSJ website since 12th October) on increased passenger numbers and “the general traffic situation, which varies from one day to the next and is difficult to manage.”
“What we have to do is put more resilience into our timetable so that it’s more able to cope when things go wrong, because they go wrong two out of every three days at this time of the year.”
A source at First explained that it is planned to put more buses into the network, maintaining the current frequency (every 12 minutes during the day) but giving each bus (and driver) more time to get from A to B. This will also give them more time to catch up between the end of one journey and the start of the next, in case they are delayed because of traffic congestion, roadworks or incidents.
Related link: ‘Listen again’ to James Freeman (Managing director of First) being interviewed on Radio Bristol (BBC iPlayer Radio, available until 10th January 2015).
Selected comments from Journal readers
BS32 Resident, 5th December:
Again my wife arrived back at Parkway from London yesterday evening at 20:40 and waited for the 21.03 73 back to Bradley Stoke but it failed to turn up, as did the 21.33 service. A bus finally turned up at approx. 21.50, probably the 21.33 service running late.
During the time she waited every other bus appeared to arrived and departed as per the timetable. She even asked one of the Wessex Connect bus drivers whether there was any issues with the traffic and was told that there wasn’t at that time of night. Therefore, I fail to understand why First can not provide a suitable level of service on the buses running to and from Bradley Stoke using similar routes to others that appear to be able to run on time.
J. Seymour, 10th December:
I can’t tell you how relieved I am that The Journal has taken on the plight of all the passengers that travel on the X73, X74 and 73. I know that we all regularly send complaints directly to First but never receive a reply. The X74 started off well but has also fallen into the same unacceptable service that we have experienced on the X73.
I work for a large company and quite a few of my colleagues have ditched this bus service to jump back in their cars because they can’t stand it any longer. The evening service is a joke and how depressing it is to see multiple 75 and 76 go by and not one bus servicing Bradley Stoke appears. The UWE is well represented even more now with the numbers 70 and 71 coming along in multiples so often empty. First should be ashamed of their service and it is unacceptable to blame traffic all the time.
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 January 2015 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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