An express bus service linking Bradley Stoke with Bristol city centre that was introduced in May and offers journey times as quick as 22mins has been suffering reliability issues during peak hours in recent months, which the operator is blaming on high levels of customer demand and a shortage of drivers.
First’s new Thornbury to Bristol T1 service travels straight down Bradley Stoke Way, stopping at all regular bus stops, as well as the new MetroBus stops. It then uses the new Stoke Gifford Transport Link (a.k.a. Stoke Gifford By-Pass) to reach the A4174 Ring Road where it turns left to access the M32 at J1.
Timetabled journey times in the morning peak are around 26mins, comparing very favourably to the 45mins on the X73 and 61mins on the 73. The off-peak journey time is 22mins, compared to 51mins on the 73.
Passenger comments on the new T1 service were initially very favourable, but it seems that it has since become a victim of its own success, with many readers reporting journeys being cancelled or buses being full by the time they reach Bradley Stoke during the morning peak.
First responded by “doubling up” the buses on two morning (inward) and two afternoon (outward) peak journeys from 2nd September on the stretch between Aztec West and Bristol. This arrangement sees two buses running on schedules separated by just two minutes, but comments on Twitter show that this has only been partly successful because some journeys are continuing to be cancelled.
Responding to a statement request from the Journal, a First West of England spokesperson said:
“Following the introduction of the T1, we have seen a big increase in the number of customers using this new service. We are addressing this by adding in extra resource where possible, sourced both internally and by subcontracting some T1 journeys to Bristol Community Transport, who also currently operate the U3 service and will, from January 2019, operate the MetroBus M1 service.”
“Due to the continuous expansion that we have seen in our operations, especially in the last six months, we are experiencing a driver shortage in the West of England. We are working hard to recruit new drivers into our business, where we offer a very competitive salary, benefits, including free bus travel for drivers and their families, discounted rail tickets on GWR, as well as in-house training, job stability and career progression. We are also borrowing First bus drivers from other parts of the UK, but on rare occasions some journeys have had to be cancelled due to last-minute driver sickness.”
“We understand that any cancellation causes significant inconvenience to our customers and we offer our sincerest apologies to any customers affected.”
Off-peak services on the T1 service appear to be largely unaffected by the issues, with comments on the Journal’s Facebook page confirming that buses are achieving the advertised journey times outside the morning and afternoon commuter peaks.
The T1 operates half-hourly but there are no late evening journeys, with the last trips in each direction leaving around 7.30pm. For most passengers travelling between Bradley Stoke and the city centre, the T1 will become of only minor interest once the M1 MetroBus service starts next year. According to the MetroBus Quality Partnership Scheme, which all operators must sign up to, the M1 will run every 10mins between 6am and midnight Monday to Saturday and every 20mins on Sunday.
Complaints about the T1 bus service on social media
Hayley B: Waited 20 mins for a late bus, for that to then stop and let some people on but then dismiss others as it was apparently ‘full’…then waited another 20 mins for the next bus, for that one to not even bother stopping even though loads of people were flagging it down and it was pretty much empty!
Karen C: Went to get the [doubled-up] 7.30 buses on Monday. One drove past…didn’t look full and the next never turned up. Gave up at 8.15 when the two [doubled-up] 8.00 buses hadn’t turned up either!
Posts about the T1 bus service on the BSJ Facebook page
- Post #1 (29th May)
- Post #2 (4th July)
- Post #3 (5th September)
- Post #4 (13th September)
- Post #5 (25th September)
This article originally appeared in the October 2018 issue of the Bradley Stoke Journal news magazine (on pages 2 & 3). 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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