An 80-year-old passenger says he arrived home “shaking and furious” after a series of bus no-shows in Bristol. Chris Evans of Henbury recounted his experience in a letter sent to the Bristol Post and Bristol Live as well as his local MP.
First Bus has apologised to the passenger and explained that bus network is still being significantly impacted by covid-related absence among staff. It has also said it is working with the West of England Combined Authority to improve the real-time information on boards at bus stops, to avoid so-called ‘ghost buses’ that disappear from the screens without warning.
Mr Evans’s letter read in full: “Well, yet another disastrous evening with First Bus or, as it should be called Last Bus or No Bus. The 2106 didn’t arrive. Then, according to my bus app and bus stop electronic display, the 2136 bus was 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 minutes away….then it was beamed up by Scottie, totally disappearing from the bus stop electronic display and my First Bus app.
“I eventually arrived home 42 minutes late, only to see that the 2206 No 1 had also been cancelled. I am in my 80th year, and I arrived home cold, traumatised, shaking and bloody furious! I also recall I have made hundreds, yes hundreds, of complaints over the years.
“Two examples? Another No 1 which was supposed to arrive at the Belgrave Road bus stop towards Cribbs failed to arrive at 1755, then the 1810 bus didn’t arrive, then a bus did arrive at 1825, only to decant all passengers at Blackboy Hill. The next No 1 then broke down at the stop before The Ridgeway, and I had to walk around a mile and half home, with no No 1 passing me. I was so chilled, that I shook for a week afterwards.
“Also, some years ago, on a Saturday afternoon, three No 76 buses failed to turn up. Of course, the most recent event had been a No 75 bus bursting into flames….a sure mark of a well-maintained vehicle. The only thing that First Bus are first at is customer abuse. Have lived through all this, I now have to take yet more of my time typing this litany of complaints.
“You people just don’t get it. I demand £100 in compensation, not a penny less. The amount should be £1,000. I won’t take ‘no’ for an answer. I will also be raising these matters with my MP. World War II, the Ukraine and First Bus all share the ability to create disasters for long-suffering people. Wake up!
“I and myriad others are not passengers, but victims, of First Bus….a very inappropriate name. Please bang some heads against walls!”
Bristol Live approached First Bus for comment on Mr Evans’s experience and the operator’s boss overseeing the Bristol area issued an apology. He echoed past statements explaining that covid absence is still having a significant effect on the workforce.
Doug Claringbold, managing Director, First Bus West of England, said: “Firstly, I would like to say sorry to our customer for his recent and past experiences and I will personally be making contact with him to discuss this direct. Along with many other organisations up and down the country, we are experiencing a higher-than-normal level of staff sickness due to the current wave of Covid 19 cases.
“The safety of our staff and customers will always be our number one priority. We are doing everything we can to minimise disruption to services and inconvenience to our customers and our teams are working extra hard to ensure as many buses run as is possible.
“Service changes that come into effect on April 24 are designed to introduce reliability into the service in the short term so that we better avoid the kinds of instances referred to in his letter. We’re also working closely with the [West of England] Combined Authority, who are responsible for the Real Time Information Boards at stops, to try and improve their accuracy.
“I would like to apologise to all customers who are affected by these shortages. For the latest information, we will continue to provide regular updates on services in First West of England through our local website, the First Bus app and our social media platforms.”