Bristol City Council has reviewed how it financially supports 20 bus services across the city, either fully or partially, to make a £900k saving over the next two years. This relates to services deemed to be not commercially viable by bus operators. The majority of bus services in Bristol operate on a commercial basis, without subsidy, but also without council control or oversight.
After consulting users of these services last year, proposals were developed with a focus on maintaining routes which if withdrawn would leave communities with a much reduced or no alternative bus service.
Thanks to increased bus use in Bristol, a mixture of evening and weekend journeys on the 1, 2, 5, 6, 7, 24, 36, 50, and 90 services can now be operated on a commercial basis, saving funds previously used to support them.
Other planned changes affected by the revised budget include reducing the frequency of daytime and evening journeys on the 505 service, shortening the 506 service due to the forthcoming MetroBus services starting later this year, and withdrawing the Severn Beach Line rail replacement service which only operates nine journeys between Avonmouth and Severn Beach on a Saturday to fill the gaps between train services. A full list of the recommended changes to council-funded bus services can be found on the council’s website.
Marvin Rees, Mayor of Bristol, said:
“Bus links provide valuable connectivity, linking communities to employment, health, education, retail and leisure opportunities. These recommendations seek to do this within a challenging reduced budget.
“It’s encouraging that negotiation with operators and consultation with bus users has resulted in proposals where no service connections have been lost outright, due to changed frequency of some services and some connections now operating commercially. We have to make difficult decisions on the way we fund council services but it’s good to see proposals which deliver savings whilst doing all they can to protect vital community links. We’ll be considering the recommendations carefully before making a decision on the subsidies.”
Cllr Mark Bradshaw, Cabinet Member for Transport, said:
“The bus continues to be the most flexible public transport and carries the most people each day so we know it’s important to get our subsidies right.
“We listened carefully to people who use and rely on these bus services and their feedback is reflected in the recommendations, making the best possible use of our reduced budget and ensuring communities need not be left isolated with no transport links at all. That has been my focus in working with colleagues throughout and I’m grateful to them and the bus operators for their efforts in bringing forward these proposals for Cabinet to consider.
“Bristol is one of only a handful of areas which has seen an increase in the bus market over the last five years and we are now in the top ten for bus journeys per head of population for the first time . Our funding plays a vital role helping more people make these journeys and while we’ve needed to act now due to current contracts coming to an end, in future Bristol will benefit from a more joined up approach to bus service provision through the new West of England Combined Authority, which will enable us to work more effectively cross-boundary.”
The proposals will be considered by Bristol City Council’s Cabinet on Tuesday 7 March. They will also be considered by the newly formed West of England Combined Authority, which will also need to endorse the plans.