Petition launched to save ‘vital’ bus service after funding axed

A campaign has been launched to save a ‘vital’ bus service after an announcement that funding has been pulled.

The Number 18, a well-used cross-boundary First Bus service which connects Kingswood and Bath via Keynsham, has been withdrawn after the West of England Combined Authority (WECA) decided not to renew the service’s contract last month.

The announcement came as a shock to many small communities along the route such as Oldland Common, Longwell Green and Bitton, who say they were not consulted on the decision.

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According to councillors Erica Williams and Paul Hughes, who represent the Bitton and Oldland Ward in South Gloucestershire – and Kingswood MP Chris Skidmore, WECA has made a mistake and smaller communities have now lost a lifeline without the opportunity to consult.

They are now calling for WECA to reconsider its decision, and have launched a petition for funding to be reinstated.

But West of England mayor Dan Norris said the authority needs money from central government in order to fund these vital bus services.

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He said: “The government is cutting local bus subsidies by two-thirds. So-called ‘levelling up’ is failing to recognise the unique role buses play in the lives of people across the West of England.

“This short-changing by government is placing our local bus services in peril.

“Recent campaigns have rightly highlighted the need for important services like the Number 18 to be maintained.

“We need government money to head west from London to benefit communities which depend on bus services to get to work and study, to go shopping, and to enjoy a social life. These aren’t luxurious requirements, but are bread-and-butter needs for many local people.”

Bristol Live reported of the multiple service changes to Bath and the surrounding areas after local bus operator, First West of England, announced the adjustments on Sunday, August 29 in a bid to “reflect customer demand and improve reliability and punctuality” which included the withdrawal of the number 18 service.

And for many who use the bus service, this was the first time they were made aware of the decision to cut the service.

Cllr Williams and Hughes said: “This is a shock for our communities.

“The number 18 is a vital service that is used by many local residents as a direct route to places like Kingswood, Keynsham and Bath for commuters, families and shoppers, and missing out some of our more rural communities has the potential to leave them significantly disconnected.

Councillors Erica Williams and Paul Hughes, who represent the Bitton and Oldland Ward in South Gloucestershire – and Kingswood MP Chris Skidmore
(Image: Cllr Erica Williams)

Cllr Williams said people are still unaware that the service has been cut as she discovered very recently.

“I was on the number 42 mid-morning and a dear soul with her shopping trolley, told the bus driver she was waiting for the number 18 and the driver had to tell her that the service had been withdrawn,” she added.

Bristol Live has approached First West of England for a comment.

Kingswood MP Chris Skidmore added: “It is a shame that the well-used cross-boundary Number 18 will no longer be funded through the Combined Authority, undermining its purpose in acting as a transport authority across the West of England.

“I will be writing to the Metro Mayor to highlight our collective concerns and would encourage as many local residents as possible to sign the petition to call for the Number 18 to keep running.”

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