X5 bus service to continue

After extensive negotiations, North Somerset Council and commercial bus company First West of England have reached an agreement to continue a reduced X5 bus service until April 2023. 

This follows proposals announced earlier this month that First would withdraw the service from October 2022.

The X5 runs between Weston-super-Mare and Bristol, serving Clevedon and Portishead.

The council, however, has not been able to find a solution to help passengers who use the two other services that First proposed to cut from October 2022: the X2 (Yatton to Bristol) and the 126 (Weston-super-Mare to Wells, serving Locking, Banwell, Sandford and Winscombe). This is due to the significant national shortage of drivers.

The bus service issues in North Somerset are in line with those being faced across the country. As well as the significant national shortage of drivers, passenger numbers on some local routes have failed to recover quickly enough following the pandemic. Central government Covid-19 relief funding is to be withdrawn in October 2022.

From Monday 10 October 2022, the X5 will run every hour between Worle and Portishead High Street between 6.30am and 6.30pm. From Portishead, the service will run every hour between 7.15am and 7.15pm.

Passengers wishing to travel onward into Weston-super-Mare town centre will then need to change buses at Worle using one of four services (X1 / 3 / 7 / 50).  A connection to Bristol can be made using the X4 service, and to Nailsea using one of two services (57 / 59).

The council is in talks with the Department for Transport to agree some temporary flexibility in funding to enable it to award First £52,550. This is equal to a quarter of the overall running costs, the amount needed to operate a reduced X5 service between October 2022 and April 2023.

Buses play a vital role serving the communities of North Somerset. Without the council stepping in, the loss of the X5 would have cut off residents from accessing vital links to schools, colleges, employment, hospitals and shops. Buses are also key to our response to the climate emergency.

While I’m relieved that we’ve been able to come up with a solution for the X5 to continue until April, albeit on a reduced service, I’m deeply concerned that we haven’t been able to find solutions for the X2 and 126.

Without further action from central government the situation is only going to get worse. Driver shortages are at the heart of this issue, and we need to work together to find a solution. We’re in discussions with local training providers to devise campaigns to increase the number of bus drivers. I encourage anyone who is considering this as a career to step forward and contact their local college.

Councillor Steve Bridger, Leader of North Somerset Council

Press release by North Somerset Council.