Since the beginning of September, Bradley Stoke has been suffering from changes imposed by First Bus’ new timetable. The withdrawal of the X74 saw widespread concern and this has been exacerbated by the chronic reliability issues that have haunted the X73 service since the timetables were introduced.
As a community of nearly 30,000 people on the outskirts of an environmentally conscious city, one would expect public transport would be the go to option for many residents. But First Bus’ inability to offer a well timetabled and reliable service sees those people who do already use the bus becoming frustrated and looking at alternative options. All at a time when the company is in discussions to be a provider of the MetroBus service. First are losing any remaining faith people had that they can run a business that supports the city as a whole and that they care about some communities in the fringes. I, perhaps in the minority, look forward to the introduction of MetroBus but my doubts are increasing given First’s standard of service over the last two months.
Since September there has been confusion about which bus stops are served in the city centre. Drivers, timetables, bus stop signage and customer service staff have all provided conflicting information which has yet to be fully resolved. This has resulted in people being left behind at stops some days having been picked up the previous day from that very stop. Buses have simply not turned up at all on a number of occasions – with a range of issues blamed including the usual “traffic” as well as “driver shortages”. The latter proving particularly concerning with this company, that cannot manage its resources appropriately, potentially being relied upon to service a £200m flagship scheme for the city which needs to hit the ground running to avoid becoming the white elephant many opponents are forecasting.
The issues over the last two months and the inability to resolve them add further weight to arguments First have little regard for the Bradley Stoke and its express services. The X73, the now sole express link to the city centre, is timetabled as such that arriving in the city for a standard 9am start is impossible and return journeys see a gap of an hour – adding frustration to waits when a bus does not appear to schedule. It has become impossible for people to rely on First to get them to commitments such as work, childcare and connecting trains on time. The cynic in many is worried that the awful service will turn people away and lead to First arguing to remove the service.
At a time when the community should be gearing up to rely on its buses more and more, First are shaking people’s confidence and driving them away.
Andrew Oram, Bradley Stoke
This letter originally appeared in the November 2016 edition of the Bradley Stoke Journal news magazine (on page 50). The magazine is delivered FREE, EVERY MONTH, to 9,500 homes in Bradley Stoke, Little Stoke and Stoke Lodge. Phone 01454 300 400 to enquire about advertising or leaflet insertion.
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