MetroBus arrives but journey times disappoint

Posted on Friday 4th January 2019 at 5:55 pm by SH (Editor)

Photo of the upper section of the MetroBus iPoint at the Willow Brook southbound stop.

BSJ editor Stephen Horton comments:

More than eight years after the Journal first reported on plans for a ‘bus rapid transit’ link between north Bristol and the city centre, it looks like we are finally at the point where services are about to begin.

Looking at the timetable that was available as we went to print, the ‘every ten minutes’ frequency on the M1 MetroBus route from 6am to midnight Monday to Friday certainly looks impressive. Add to that the flat fare of £2 for any single journey along the 17-mile route between Cribbs Causeway and Hengrove in south Bristol, or £4 for a day ticket valid on all First services in the Bristol zone, and it really does look like it could tempt more car drivers to make the switch to public transport. That is, if the operators BCT/First can actually run the service to the published timetable, which seems to have been a perennial problem in recent years.

But scratch beneath the surface and there are some strange anomalies and shortfalls to be found with the new M1 service. For example, when the planning application for the MetroBus infrastructure was submitted in 2014, it was estimated that the journey time between the Willow Brook Centre and Bristol city centre on MetroBus would be 26 minutes, a saving of 22 minutes compared to the existing 73 service. However, the recently published timetable for the M1 service shows typical journey times of 32 minutes off-peak and 37 minutes at peak times.

It also has to be born in mind that many people will have further to walk to a bus stop to catch the M1 as the route goes straight down Bradley Stoke Way and there are fewer stops, which further reduces the time saving.

Another question people will be asking is why is the M1 so much slower than the T1 Thornbury to Bristol service, introduced in May 2018, which makes the same journey in just 22 minutes (off-peak)? That is, when the buses actually turn up, as it has been plagued by unreliability issues attributed to driver shortages. (For fairness, it is noted that the T1 operates only half-hourly and not at all after around 7.30pm.)

A MetroBus spokesperson told us that the longer-than-anticipated M1 journey times reflect worsened traffic conditions since the planning application was prepared and pointed out that the M1 serves four stops in and around UWE before using the new bus-only junction on the M32, whereas the T1 heads straight for the M32 at junction 1.

Finally, it is noted that it will not be possible to travel between Bradley Stoke and Bristol Parkway Station using MetroBus, so passengers wishing to make that journey will still have to use the existing 73 service. Bizarrely, they will now have to allow more time for their trip as the frequency of the 73 is being reduced in the face of competition … from MetroBus!

This article originally appeared in the January 2019 issue of the Bradley Stoke Journal magazine (on page 6). The magazine is delivered FREE, EVERY MONTH (except August), to ALL 8,700 homes in Bradley Stoke. Phone 01454 300 400 to enquire about advertising or leaflet insertion.

Post-print correction: In the first sentence “ten years” has been corrected to “eight years” (the fist post on this subject was made on 24th July 2009).

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Tags: bus, MetroBus, MetroBus service, North Fringe to Hengrove Package, rapid transit

2 Responses to “MetroBus arrives but journey times disappoint”

  1. Colin Says:

    But the 73 now takes 54 minutes to get to the Centre off-peak, due to congestion, so the M1 is still 22 minutes faster than it.
    Surely the actual point here is not that the M1 is slower than expected, but how can we sort the congestion that has caused it?

  2. Roger Cowley Says:

    Having had recent experience of Edinburgh’s excellent public transport, my wife and I (combined age 130years) decided to try out the M1 bus at the weekend to visit central Bristol. We sat at the front on the upper deck and felt like a couple of kids again. It was exhilarating to sweep by all the stationary cars stuck at the end of the M32 and savour the pleasure of avoiding multi-storey parking hell. We spent a very pleasant afternoon down by the harbour before an equally relaxing ride back to Bradley Stoke.

    Past experience of Bristol’s public transport led me to conclude that it should be a last-resort mode of travel. I am happy to report that I am a reformed believer. It matters less that buses aren’t full than that they turn up on time with seating room and that they are clean and comfortable. The M1 passed our test with flying colours.

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