Bus passengers took up to four hours to get across Bristol as the “chaos” of a new timetable came into force after more than 30 services were axed or reduced. West of England metro mayor Dan Norris has described the situation as “unacceptable”.
First Bus made changes to some routes in and around the city in a bid to improve reliability and frequency, but the initial impact on the first working day since they took effect on Sunday led to nightmare journeys for some. The controversial withdrawal of the T2 from Thornbury to Bristol via Cribbs Causeway and the Y2 between Chipping Sodbury, Yate and Bristol appear to have caused the most disruption as commuters try to work out new journeys, often involving more changes.
In response, First West of England said early signs were that the new timetables had significantly reduced the number of cancelled buses and blamed much of the disruption on Monday on the huge lorry fire on the M5. Speaking on BBC Radio Bristol breakfast show today (Tuesday), Mr Norris, who leads the West of England Combined Authority (Weca), which is in charge of the region’s strategic transport, said it had taken a 14-year-old student four hours to get three buses from Thornbury to Filton College.
He said: “That is totally unacceptable and I will be watching that very closely. Unfortunately when new bus routes start and cuts come in, there is chaos at the beginning.
“People travelling locally from Yate to Fishponds had to use the train and then get a bus rather than their usual bus all the way there. I will watch that and get further reports to see how that beds down but it’s something I’m not at all happy about.”
Labour’s Mr Norris said taxpayers gave an awful lot of money for some of the routes and expected them to run efficiently and on time. “I will have to wrestle with the Government as to how much extra money I can get to save the buses being cut at the moment,” he said.
“The Government did give money when the pandemic was happening and a lot of people stopped using buses, but they suddenly stopped that and are not replacing that, so they have put us in a real pickle. I will do my very best but I am limited by the money the Government provides me for those important services and by how many people use the buses.
“So I would urge people who are concerned about bus routes to please use them.” Public transport campaigner David Redgewell said many passengers were stuck on Monday on the former T2 route, including “very worried students”, as well as along the old Y2 and at Yate bus station.
A spokesperson for First West of England said: “It is too early to judge the new timetables, especially given the disruption caused to many services due to the serious incident on the M5 yesterday. That said, early signs are that the new timetables have significantly reduced the number of cancelled buses, with data showing a more than 70 per cent improvement compared to previous levels.
“We regret any remaining cancellations and the disruption this caused to customers’ journeys and would like to sincerely apologise for that. We note the comments about the T2 and Y2 services, but as stated previously, they have been withdrawn from this week due to extremely low passenger numbers.”
When First West of England announced the changes recently, it said the T2 and Y2 would no longer operate because of low passenger numbers that predated the pandemic. The operator said most of the other 30 changes were temporary and reflected the need to reduce the frequency of some services to cope with ongoing driver shortages and routes that were not commercially viable, with passenger levels still only at 70 per cent of where they were before March 2020.
More details on the changes and the new timetables are here.