We’ve never used a bus, but we know best!

I wrote a post a couple of years ago bemoaning people who seem to think they can plan a bus service without any knowledge of the industry. Things haven’t changed. Aside from Twitter being full of people who think that public ownership will solve everything, recent press activity from the Chew Valley Chamber of Commerce suggest they are still pursuing a minibus service in the area, oblivious to the bus services and operations which already exist (and any damage they may cause to them). And the operator they’ve chosen to progress this idea? First. An operator who has shown no interest in the area since losing the contract to provide bus services to Bristol to Eurotaxis in 2006.

Article “Minibus to the rescue?”, Somerset Guardian print edition 30th May 2019.
An almost idential article to that from the Somerset Guardian shown above was published on page 58 of the June 2019 Chew Valley Gazette.

Surely a Chamber of Commerce for a rural area should be engaging with local businesses before hooking up with a multinational that is rapidly falling to bits (BBCFinancial Times). Also curious is the employment of Sue Arrowsmith as the consultant heading this project. Her previous projects include the MyFirstMile project in North Bristol (which was operated by CityFox Taxis for a whole seven months from May to 21st December 2018 before being abandoned). To suggest that a project which lasted for such a pitiful length of time could be the model for something sustainable in a far more sparsely populated area seems ludicrous to me.

But anyway, lets look at the vague proposal. A minibus connecting with other bus services at Pensford and Hengrove Park. Connections at Pensford for service 376 don’t seem to be the best of proposals. The service is not renown for its reliability, especially in the afternoon and evening coming out of Bristol. I wonder how long the average minibus or taxi pilot would spend waiting at Pensford for onward connections given how often and severely the 376 can be delayed. To suggest that this is a more acceptable solution than catching a less frequent service from Bristol City Centre which will take people directly to their desired village is simply ridiculous.

Hengrove Park is an awful location for onward connections too. The fastest service from Hengrove Park to the city centre is Metrobus M1 which is scheduled to take 39 mins (peak) or 35 mins (daytimes). In comparison, the 672 from Dundry to Broadmead without connections is scheduled to take 35 mins peak or 31 mins off peak, even on HCT’s awful drawn-out schedules with their cumbersome Enviro 200s.

Both articles in the press also promise links to “Bath and the Somer Valley”. I’m not sure what these links are, but the once daily 177 (First) and once weekly services 752 and 754 (B&NES) are the only links from the A37 at Pensford or Chelwood to Bath and Radstock respectively. Surely our Chamber of Commerce cannot have failed in their research by basing their plan on including links to the 379 bus service which was withdrawn almost three years ago in September 2016? Perhaps their research hasn’t been very good at all, because a simple walk outside the pub in Chew Magna where they hold their meetings would produce a list of local bus companies with a vested interest in the area and whom they could have consulted before or as well as First?

Regardless of the feasibility of this individual proposal, i remain bemused at the levels of local press coverage given to parties such as the Chamber of Commerce who think they know best regarding public transport, particularly when it is so difficult for bus companies to get any kind of coverage for positive changes which are actually happening.

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