Rip it up and start again

Bath and North East Somerset Council are currently surveying for opinions on their Transport Strategy for the Chew Valley area, which is Citistar’s bread and butter. We’re based there and carry a lot of passengers around there over the course of each week.

If you fancy a read, the documents are here.

Their proposals for public transport are effectively to abandon the current network of bus services and instead establish “high frequency” links to “transport hubs” such as Bristol Airport (which never suffers from traffic problems) and Pensford on the A37 (likewise). This will connect with “high frequency” buses A1, 376 and 379, the latter of which was withdrawn well over a year ago when the Paulton developer funding ran out.

As an operator of several of the current services (to which B&NES currently pay the princely sum of sod all[1]), you’d expect me to have views on the subject. My responses are below. I do not expect them to improve the council’s attitude towards me as the petulant child of local bus services, but as they were provided anonymously (the council’s choice, not mine), i’m quite happy with them being public. I look forward to the council adopting the strategy entirely, thus me finding myself out of a job and no longer paying tax to support them.

Anyway here are my responses to the council’s proposed strategy:

1- As the only bus operator who has shown an interest in developing services in the past thirty years (aside from the A37 corridor), the irrelevance and inaccuracy of issues relating to public transport in this document are horrifying. One service with which connecting services are proposed (379) has been withdrawn and a single peak hour journey replacement (177) is costing the council a king’s ransom.
2- Public bus services to Chew Valley School (144, 460) have been completely ignored.
3- The established bus services to Bristol have strong commuter usage from the villages closest to Bristol (Chew Magna, Chew Stoke). If the council had bothered to survey these journeys properly, this would have been noticed. Subjecting people in these villages to a connection at either Pensford or Bristol Airport would more than double their commuting time.
4- Bus services on the A37 and to Bristol Airport are unreliable due to traffic issues in Bristol. Connecting services are impractical, particularly in the evening peak.
5- Table 4.4 suggests that “…services have evolved over time and offer routes where journey time is not a problem for users and the range of destinations is not particularly allied to address particular accessibility requirements.” This is nonsense. Services have evolved to where there is established demand. Usage has improved where services are provided professionally (such appropriately sized vehicles). There is no justification in abandoning support for well used services in favour of providing something to which no genuine demand has been identified.
6- Section 4.6.2 suggests that “Links to the major urban centres of Bristol, and to a lesser extent, Bath, Weston Super Mare, Keynsham and Wells are important but buses to these destinations at peak times are very limited in number.” We have established a peak hour service to Weston super Mare from several villages in recent months, yet the council has chosen to largely ignore this innovation which has been provided at no cost to B&NES. Certainly there has been no effort to help publicise it.
7- No mention is made of coach services to Bath College, which could potentially form the basis for public services to the city at peak times. Instead the report recommends providing new connecting minibus services to buses that have been withdrawn over a year ago.
8- The proposed “re-casting” of local bus services in section 4.6.2 is abhorrent. Why desecrate well used bus services in favour of something concocted by an office dweller with zero real world experience? Anybody considering this approving this decision should be forced to come and explain to passengers why their bus services are being cancelled. Many of these passengers are elderly, vulnerable and otherwise isolated – precisely the categories you are paying lip service to in the rest of the document, yet proposing taking their facilities away!
9- This document does not reflect the views of those who currently use bus services in the area, nor the views which were generated as part of the “Total Transport” workshop event held in Ubley. Instead proposals for public transport largely concern highly impractical proposals, whilst wiping away an established and largely efficient network carrying hundreds of passengers each week.

(Response Ends)

I’m passionate about what we do, and i think we do it well. Isn’t it a shame that our jaundiced public sector can’t see beyond the end of their desks?

[1] – For the record, current Citistar services in the Chew Valley are:
4C (Bishop Sutton – Weston), M-F peak hours. Commercial.
128 (Bishop Sutton – Clevedon – Nailsea), Thu Shoppers. Supported by North Somerset.
134 (Bishop Sutton – Weston), Tue Shoppers, Commercial. Taken over by us commercially in 2013, saving B&NES over £5k a year in subsidy ever since.
135 (Lulsgate Bottom – Weston), Fri Shoppers, Supported by North Somerset.
144 (Temple Cloud – Chew Valley School), M-F school times. Commercial.

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