Since Metrobus m1 started, there have been a number of moans on the First Bus Bristol: Have Your Say Facebook group regarding broken links since the withdrawal of services 50 and 90 from various parts of Inns Court and Hengrove.
Since the splitting of service 36 at Brislington, there is now an extra vehicle working at school/college times on route 96 which doesn’t appear to have anything else to occupy it during the day, so here is a suggestion: Why not use this vehicle between peaks to provide a local service based on Imperial Park and Oatlands Avenue retail centres? Imperial Park is appallingly badly served by Public Transport given how busy it is as a retail centre. There is also a large development of new housing being built adjacent to it which should be producing some developer funding for bus services. Rather than the usual local government approach of blowing it all on one huge, unsustainable project, why not give a smaller scale venture a go?
A new circular service operating from Imperial Park to Hengrove and Inns Court, off peak on weekdays.
If the 20 minute frequency is considered too arduous for First scheduling, it could easily become a 30 minute headway instead, perhaps concentrating on one of the variations at Whitchurch (either serving Fortfield Road or Wharnecliffe Gardens and Ridgeway Lane).
This service would connect the local community with their closest retail centres, something which Metrobus m1 fails to do. It would also be possible to do it at a tiny fraction of the cost of introducing the glamorous vanity project. Limited Stop, Express buses aren’t very good at making local connections, which are increasingly being left to community transport services, ironically aimed at only one tiny part of the community.
So why don’t you do this yourself then, smartarse?
Good question. There are two barriers to an independent operator providing this – one is that i wouldn’t even know where to start approaching Bristol City Council over accessing developer funding. Whereas i have phone numbers in my mobile for the relevant staff members in B&NES, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire, Bristol remains an impenetrable fortress unless you’re a community interest company.
The second barrier is First’s ticketing dominance. Despite having been lectured at WEBOA (West of England Bus Operator Association – the Rider ticket management group) meetings by Ed Hopkins of South Gloucestershire about operators not working hard enough to promote the tickets, the new Metrobus m1 leaflets don’t mention them at all. The new Metrobus leaflets do, of course, provide the equivalent of a whole A4 page dedicated to selling First’s own ticketing. Originally, Rider tickets were intended to be the big selling point for Metrobus, but such priorities seem to have been long since forgotten now that Wessex are an increasingly hazy memory and First are the only operator involved in Metrobus services commercially.
I have a long memory, and can recall being verbally abused for not taking First’s day rider tickets in 2010 when we were providing service 52 commercially. These are not arguments i want to revisit.
So there we have it. A small proposal for a small solution to a problem which has arisen because of a big project.