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Public Consultation: First Bus withdrawal of section of 73 bus route from Bradley Stoke South

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BSTC - 22nd March 2022

Bradley Stoke Town Council is keen to hear from residents who have been directly impacted by the loss of the Bradley Stoke south loop of the 73 bus route.

Representatives from First Bus attended the Bradley Stoke Town Council, Full Council meeting on 19th January 2022 (see extract from minutes below)

15.3 First Bus withdrawal of section of 73 bus route from Bradley Stoke South

The Chair welcomed Chris Hanson and Matt Bryant from First Bus and invited them to address the meeting.

Chris Hanson apologised to the Town Council for the lack of forward consultation and knowledge regarding the removal of a section of the 73 service from the town. He explained that it has been a very challenging last two years. Up until now, extra funding has been received from Government to help alleviate the reduced footfall, but this funding is now coming to an end and First Bus are having to urgently look at the underperforming services across the area (of which the 73 is one).

The introduction of Services T1 and M1 has taken a lot of passengers who, in the past, used the 73 service and the 73 service has struggled to pick up enough people on the replicated section of the route to sustain itself financially. This has, of course, been heightened by the pandemic. This leaves us with a problem as our current patronage is approximately 62% of the pre-COVID levels (measured against the same week in 2020) – while we are running on average around 90% of the pre-covid service level (although this isn’t quite the case along the whole of Service 73). In addition congestion on the service has continued to increase leading to a significant shortfall in respect of the reliability quota we would deem as acceptable. As a result the need for change became apparent. Having looked carefully at the passenger usage data we could see clearly that Service 73 was carrying exceedingly few passengers between Orpheus Avenue and Willow Brook Centre. In order to bring about improvements to reliability without adding costly addition resource we therefore took the decision to re-introduce the old route for Service 73 using the full length of Brook Way.

Councillors and local residents then raised the following points:

  • There have been recent changes to the T1 service – First Bus commented that T2 service is likely to be discontinued, but the T1 service is being increased to every 20 minutes
  • The T1 evening service is poor and often services are cancelled – First Bus apologised and said they hoped the situation will improve
  • Many discussions over the years about loss of bus services in the town. There are over 21,000 residents in the town and everyone is entitled to a good, reliable service and this is not being achieved – First Bus responded that one main issue is the drop-off in funding, but First Bus is a business and if changes are not made, some services could cease to exist.
  • The town council were not told about the changes prior to it being announced officially
  • Could the decision be postponed until the impact of the economy opening up following the COVID-19 pandemic be better known – First Bus commented that unfortunately, this is not possible, but the situation will be kept under continual review and changes in provision could be reversed if significant increases are seen. First Bus are happy to come back to further council meetings with representatives from West of England Combined Authority (WECA) to give further updates.
  • Disability concerns raised by a local resident – First Bus commented that they would need to look into the specifics of this issue.
  • Clarification sought on whether correct consultation process and timescales undertaken – First Bus commented that discussions were held with WECA & SGC back in November, but couldn’t make it public then as funding issues were not clarified
  • The Town Council were not contacted until 4th January 2022 – First Bus apologised for this and acknowledged that it was not ideal and how they would have liked discussions to happen, but this was due to the funding issue.
  • The viability of the 73 service was raised several years ago, prior to the introduction of the Metrobus service. First Bus carried out an informal consultation and attended a Town Council meeting. What are the Town Council going to do to support the local residents now – the Chair commented that the town council will actively support the local community transport schemes.
  • Winter is a bad time of year to introduce cuts to services coupled with the threat of industrial action from other public transport providers – First Bus declined to comment on other operators
  • How does the removal of the “Herbs” loop improve the bus service – First Bus commented that to be able to retain the Herbs loop (which takes about 8 minutes), due to logistics and resources etc. there would be a need to add an additional bus into the route and that would cost in the region of £220,000 (approximately) which is not cost effective.

The Chair of Council, Councillor Tom Aditya thanked the representatives from First Bus for attending and said that he looked forward to them attending a future meeting along with a representative from WECA.

Comments can be sent to:

Or posted to Bradley Stoke Town Council Office, Jubilee Centre, Savages Wood Road, Bradley Stoke, BS32 8HL

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