M1 MetroBus: 15 months late, but finally running

Photo of the very first timetabled M1 MetroBus to enter Bradley Stoke arriving at the Patchway Brook southbound stop.

North Bristol’s long-awaited M1 MetroBus service finally launched on Sunday 6th January, around 15 months later than originally planned and 39 months after the start of what eventually turned out to be more than two years of highly disruptive roadworks to construct new bus lanes along Bradley Stoke Way.

The M1, the third and longest Bristol MetroBus route, connects Cribbs Causeway, Bradley Stoke, UWE, the city centre, Bedminster and Hengrove Park.

It is operated by Bristol Community Transport (BCT), under contract to First West of England, using a fleet of 21 biogas buses. Up to 60 new driver and support positions are said to have been created at BCT’s Bedminster depot.

To reflect the importance of the new service in supporting local communities, artwork featuring community groups and organisations based on the route features on the inside rear panels of the vehicles. These range from youth organisations such as Scouts, Army Cadets and theatre groups to services for the elderly and environmental charities, as well as landmark independent businesses.

Eight of the new buses were already liveried and on the road on launch day. The remaining 13 murals will be unveiled in the next coming weeks. Local groups that will be featured on the buses include Bradley Stoke Scouts, Bradley Stoke Active Lifestyle Centre, Bradley Stoke Cricket Club, Bradley Stoke Library and Safe Space.

Eight of the 21 groups featured are members of Bristol Community Transport, using their community minibuses. These groups will directly benefit from the operation of MetroBus as BCT will be using the proceeds to support their community transport services in the city.

James Freeman, managing director of First Bus West of England, said:

“The vehicles and drivers that BCT are committing to the new M1 MetroBus are providing a vital service supporting local communities. We wanted to reflect this on the new buses by showcasing just a few of the many organisations and groups along our route that contribute so much to making the community a more inclusive place to live and work.”

The M1 operates every 10 minutes between 6am and midnight (Mon-Sat) and every 20 minutes between 9am and midnight on Sundays.

MetroBus fares are simple and all tickets are ‘buy before you board’, for faster journeys. Single trips are £2.00 (£2.07 for an individual ticket via the First mTicket app) and a day ticket allowing unlimited travel is £4.

Ahead of the launch, households along the M1 route were mailed a timetable and a set of discount codes allowing the purchase of four free single MetroBus tickets via the First mTickets smartphone app.

On launch day, the first officially timetabled southbound M1 MetroBus arrived in Bradley Stoke on time (9.12am) at the Patchway Brook stop. However, the first northbound service was running six minutes late by the time it arrived at the Willow Brook stop (10.01am).

Each MetroBus stop along the M1 route should have an iPoint (combined ticket machine and information display) installed “by the start of February”. A missing shelter at Harry Stoke northbound is scheduled to be installed by the same date. If for whatever reason an iPoint is not present or operational, drivers will temporarily accept contactless payment on the bus at this stop until the iPoint is operational.

Speaking two weeks after the M1 MetroBus service started, Rob Pymm, commercial director, First West of England, said:

“We are very pleased with how the service is running to date. The launch went very smoothly and we have so far carried well over 70,000 customers, with some very positive feedback about the facilities available on the new buses. The iPoint screens and smartphone apps are now displaying real-time information, rather than the timetabled data shown on the first day.”

A report prepared for a meeting of the West of England Combined Authority on 23rd January said all MetroBus services were “generally operating well”, but noted that the M3 (Emersons Green to city centre) is “not meeting its timetable due to AM peak time traffic congestion on the A4174 Ring Road”. The report added: “South Gloucestershire Council have been monitoring this, and are considering the available options for improving M3 punctuality.” Service M1 was said to be “experiencing some issues with driver route familiarity, as well as congestion around Bedminster Bridge”.

More information and related links:

Feedback on the first week of the M1 MetroBus service (from the Bradley Stoke Journal’s Facebook page)

Andy: “I use it daily. I used to use the T1. It does take a little longer than the T1, but it’s far more regular, seems to be mostly on time and is making my daily commute to and from the centre from Bradley Stoke more bearable. Once they iron out the technical glitches, it will be very good.”

Swapna: “It is a great service, but I see most of the buses are empty during the day time, which will mount up the costs, Better to have good frequency during the peak hours 6-10 in the morning and 4-8 in the evening. Rest of the time the frequency can be reduced.”

Tracy: “I actually don’t mind the extra walk to get to the bus stop, the journey times are much reduced from the 73 journeys. Have had no trouble with availability.”

Will: “The ticketing system is bizarre. They should have made it like the park & ride where you can buy packs of tickets and save some money. Also don’t agree with M1 going through Frenchay UWE Campus. If they added an M1X service that skipped it, then it would actually be worth using.”

Jonathan: “Not helpful for Little Stoke folk. I still use 73 to get to town and home. The 73 frequency is frustrating. X73 was a great service it’s not like the times were great but still better than it is now.”

Mike: “It seems to me most buses are empty. I’m still in the camp that it’s a total waste of money and will be a money drain for years to come.

Paul: “It appears that only regular bus users use it. No one said they have left their car at home!”

Read more comments…

Feedback on Twitter

M1 MetroBus tweet by Vicky.

M1 MetroBus tweet by Tricky.

This article originally appeared in the February 2019 issue of the Bradley Stoke Journal magazine (on pages 6 & 7). 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.

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