First boss promises new “more resilient” timetable for 73 service

A First West of England X73 bus at the Linden Drive stop in Bradley Stoke, Bristol.

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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  1. Why not give Wessex the 73 route? I admit when Wessex used to run the 13 service from the Willow Brook Centre to town, that service was good and affordable, yes they were sometimes late from time to time. But at least Wessex showed up and apologised for why they were late at their stop. Furthermore First seem to have so much over all the smaller bus companies? Why don’t First give the smaller operators the chance, for once?

  2. Reply to BSJ Reader
    Wessex had the 73 route. They withdrew it because they considered it as not financially viable. Firstbus stepped in and took it over.

    The bus service in Bradley Stoke is an ongoing saga, that has been running longer than I can remember now. There have already been at least three campaigns over the years to get or keep a bus service for the residents. Timetables and routes have been changed, as have providers of the service. Hopefully we will see an improvement when the new fancy bus service gets running but I doubt it.

    I think that for all the money being thrown at it, the new transport system will end up being a failure.

  3. It’s more ridiculous that we are given a 10% increase in First Day prices with absolutely zero warning. Do they have any idea how many people were stranded when they did that?

    There is more than just timetables to be fixed in this broken bus service!

  4. Hi
    Waited for the 17.55 bus x74 from the centre yesterday , Tuesday, 6th January, was there at 10 to 7 at the stop by Christmas steps. No show. Waited in case it was late, no show. Waited for the 17.35 ( the next available x74) it did not show either. The next one came at 7.03 and I got on it, it left at 7.04 so one minute early, so probably left too early for anyone wanting to get the timetabled 17.05 . This meant I was waiting over an hour on the bus stop. No knowledge of why.
    Unacceptable and very frustrating, if I had known that two buses were not running, for whatever reason, I might have walked or changed my plans, but no information either. I’ve sent this to first bus for comment too.

  5. X73 from Cabot circus today, 5pm……ignored me holding my arm out , started to stop then driver decided not to and drove straight past. Several on bus stop. Bus not full. Why?

  6. This morning my wife waited over an hour (from 0930 to 1040) at Webb Wood Road for the 73 to Bristol. First Bus’ response that the buses were running late but nothing major! They were mean to have at least 4 buses during the time she waited. She was an hour late for her work and pay the babysitter extra money for the additional hours. I used to live and work in Kenya – we had a more reliable bus service there than what Bradley Stoke is suffering just now!

  7. Post from Melanie Rincewind‎ (on the BSJ Facebook page):

    The X74 from The Haymarket in town due around 2.30pm was a big fat no show, despite showing up on the board. The poor chap at First Customer Services (who is needing surgery to remove the flea from his ear) said there was a problem with the driver “he was probably due a break”. My heart bleeds. My kids will now have to sit in the office at school for lord knows how long as I’m going to be late picking them up AGAIN!

  8. monday morning I waited 50 mins from 9:30 to 10:20 at the wheat field stop on brook way to go to work, what was most galling was seeing the 6 buses go in the Cribbs direction! Not impressed!

  9. It was nice coming back from college today… I waited 1hour and 20minutes just for the X74 service to show up. First call this a bus service? It’s way beyond a joke. Don’t get me wrong the bus drivers have the most polite attitude don’t they? No apology for the late running? I am only a student and am thankful that I now take driving lessons, in fact I would go so far to say that I would prefer to drive than get the bus. Totally unacceptable. I am disgusted with the bus services and all First have to say is that they are working on these issues? It’s been going on for yonks.

  10. Tuesday mornings 08.39 x73 did not turn up at Linden Drive. Had to wait on bus stop for 45 mins in the freezing cold and rain until both the 09.05 x73 and the previous 08.39 x73 turns up at exactly the same time. Im sorry but there is no way you can blame that on traffic…and they expect us to pay more for this service? And also when you ask the other drivers who do a similar route (x74) they have never been able to give me any information on the whereabouts of these buses. I think there needs to be more communication also.

  11. X74 19.05 and x74 19.35 from the centre this evening, both were ‘no shows’ again so, in effect, no x74 for hour and a half.
    Have sent an email to first bus. Haven’t received an email back following my last comment about a ‘no show’ yet, so asked if they will reply to that too. Doubt I will receive a reply.

  12. I waited over half an hour for the 73 to show up at manor farm roundabout last night 21/02/15. They say the 73 runs every 15 minutes? More like every 40 to an hour. To add insult, there was no traffic issue. I am dissapointed by these busses, they seem to be getting worse and worse. Come on first boss? What are you doing about it? Considering we all have to pay an arm and a leg for your bus service? I am a student. I have a part time job. I do not earn much. I fork out £46.20 each month for a monthly student inner zone pass. I hardly use the pass, the X74 service is a joke. It is the only service that enable to get me to and from college. Pitty it dosent run on time or in some cases does not show up at all. So, i walk down filton avenue to abbeywood (bus stop opposite macdonalds) i then wait 30 minutes for the 73. It is also late. I speak on a behalf of many residents of bradley stoke whom have experienced the same thing. Whats going to get done about this? Changes are apparently being made? If so where are the results? The timetables still show effective from august 2014? Answers please. Results please.

  13. On 19/02/15 and 25/02/15 the 19:05 X74 from the centre failed to appear. I complained about the first one to First Bus but have had no response. To make matters worse the First Bus app shows it as being due, it just does arrive.

    To add insult to injury on 25/02/15 the 19:35 X74 arrived but pulled in back from the stop as a 73 was there, however before any of us realised the bus pulled away and did not give people the chance to notice it was there.

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