Ticket machine issues set to delay Bradley Stoke MetroBus start date

MetroBus stop on Bradley Stoke Way (opposite Aldi).

There’s no official date for the start of services, so Journal editor Stephen Horton is once again left to speculate…

As I write this, more than 800 days after MetroBus construction work first started in Bradley Stoke, we seem to have finally arrived at the point when all the new sections of bus lane are complete and ready for service.

Even the “missing link” of the Stoke Gifford By-Pass looks likely to be opening soon, if not before Christmas then shortly after.

Cue increased calls for information about when the much promised new “high quality, fast and reliable” MetroBus services will start to operate here in Bradley Stoke, on the North Fringe to Hengrove Package (NFHP) route.

Assuming the various elements of the route infrastructure fall into place as promised over the next few weeks, focus will soon turn to the lack of iPoints (combined information, route planning and ticketing machines) at the MetroBus stops – equipment that is considered to be essential for the successful operation of services.

Installation of iPoints was originally supposed to begin in August, but we then heard of a decision to change supplier, meaning that they could not be piloted at selected stops until mid-October, ahead of being rolled out to the whole network over a number of months.

We now hear that the iPoints haven’t yet been delivered and are still undergoing factory tests. Furthermore, MetroBus has asked for “a few design changes” to be made, with the result that the pilot machines will most likely not be installed until the new year. We understand that Bradley Stoke iPoints will be in the third phase of installation, meaning they won’t arrive here until late February/early March.

The next question is: Do we have a company willing to operate services on the NFHP route? I’ve lost track of the number of times we’ve been told that an announcement about the operator “will be made in the next few weeks”, but that is exactly the message we were given when we asked for something to include in this article.

Although no official announcement has been made, there have been a number of unintentional leaks or thinly disguised hints that one or more operators have actually signed up to run NFHP services on a commercial basis, but it seems that confidentiality agreements are in place which prevent MetroBus from making announcements until the operator is ready to go public.

The final uncertainty is how quickly an operator can source a sufficient number of vehicles meeting the emissions standard specified by MetroBus. These are required to be diesel/electric hybrid or greener (e.g. biomethane), although a concession allows the use of diesel-powered buses during the first two years of MetroBus operations, provided they meet the Euro VI emissions standard.

So, still plenty of uncertainty, but the iPoint issue alone would appear to suggest that we will not see MetroBus operating in Bradley Stoke before April 2018.

Photo: MetroBus stop on Bradley Stoke Way (opposite Aldi)

This article originally appeared in the December 2017 issue of the Bradley Stoke Journal news magazine (on page 19). 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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