A Bedminster-based social enterprise has been announced as the operator of services on the MetroBus route that will serve Bradley Stoke.
Bristol Community Transport (BCT) will be operating the M1 MetroBus route under contract to First West of England, and is investing in a fleet of 21 biogas buses running on gas generated from food waste – creating up to 60 new driver and support positions at its Bedminster depot.
BCT is Bristol’s largest community transport operator and a part of leading transport social enterprise HCT Group, which operates major transport contracts in London, Jersey, Guernsey and Leeds. As a social enterprise, they reinvest the profits from their commercial work into further transport services or projects in the communities they serve. BCT already provides four regular bus routes in Bristol, operating under contract to Bristol City Council.
The operators for all of the first three MetroBus routes have now been announced. In addition to the M1 service that will be operated by BCT, the other two routes, M2 (Long Ashton Park & Ride to city centre) and M3 (Emersons Green to city centre), will be operated directly by First West of England.
The M2 route was initially planned to be the first to open, but has reportedly been beset by technical problems. Priority is now being given to getting the M3 service running, with MetroBus saying some months ago that it was expected to start “immediately after the completion of the Bromley Heath viaduct work on the A4174 Ring Road”. The M3 start date has now been confirmed as 29th May, which will come a month after the lifting of the contraflow over the viaduct.
As noted in our February magazine (and only recently picked up by the regional media), the previously advertised MetroBus route between Emersons Green and Parkway Station via UWE has been quietly shelved, with the route between Emersons Green and the city centre (now known as M3) being altered to take in UWE and use the new bus-only M32 junction on Stoke Lane. Consequently, there will be now be no MetroBus services accessing Parkway until the Cribbs Patchway MetroBus Extension is completed in 2021.
The biogas vehicles that BCT will operate on the M1 route will conform to stringent low emission standards. Indeed, all vehicles will conform to the emission standards that are laid down in the MetroBus Quality Partnership Scheme (QPS). First West of England will be operating on MetroBus routes using the very clean Euro VI emission diesel buses at launch, but these will be replaced by biogas buses within two years.
In a manner that is already well established locally, each MetroBus route has a designated colour to make it easy for passengers to recognise the route they want. The colours are magenta for M1, orange for M2 and green for M3. There will be spare vehicles sporting red colouring that will be used on any route.
The specially designed vehicle interiors have a new seat fabric, wi-fi and USB charging points, while the drivers will wear special MetroBus uniforms, distinct from any others in the city.
Asked by the Journal when we can expect to see MetroBus services running in Bradley Stoke, Dai Powell, chief executive of HCT Group (the parent group of BCT), said:
“We’re very keen to get started as soon as possible, after all, we’re investing £7m into the city’s transport and we need to start making that investment work financially in the shortest possible timescale. Yet we also have a significant gas infrastructure project to undertake, one with a lot of moving parts – civil works to pipe the gas on site, the build of the installation and so on.”
“We’re also having a fleet of brand new vehicles built – a project in its own right. As a consequence, we don’t want to give a timeline at this stage as it would be a hostage to fortune. As the project gets into gear and we know more, we aim to be open and transparent about our progress – so we’ll keep everyone posted.”
We also asked First why it had chosen to subcontract the M1 route rather than run it itself. A company spokesperson said:
“It’s primarily to do with depot capacity: Our depots are at capacity, and remaining capacity is already allocated to forecasted growth in parts of our network. The customer benefit is that this arrangement allows simplified ticketing on MetroBus services and across the wider network, which keeps things simple for the travelling public.”
Photo: A Bristol MetroBus vehicle parked at Long Ashton Park & Ride.
More info: MetroBus (Travelwest)
This article originally appeared in the May 2018 issue of the Bradley Stoke Journal news magazine (on pages 6 & 7). The magazine is delivered FREE, EVERY MONTH, to ALL 8,700 homes in Bradley Stoke. Phone 01454 300 400 to enquire about advertising or leaflet insertion.
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