Bristol bus route review – join the debate

The Greater Bristol Bus Network is on its way.   And it will provide a fast, efficient network of major commuter bus routes into the city centre from in and around Bristol.

902 Park and ride bus

902 Park and ride bus centre

But what about Bristol’s wider network of routes which serve local neighbourhoods?  Most people would agree that these routes need a radical overhaul. Years of tinkering around the edges has led to a network that is patchy and inconsistent.

Many of the routes haven’t changed for decades, and others have been scrapped for commercial reasons, or for lack of funding, leaving passengers feeling last in line.

The experience of other cities in the UK and Europe shows us how buses in Bristol could be better organised.  So now Bristol City Council is looking to work with private sector service providers to overhaul the existing network to make it serve the city better.

As a first step, the council is holding an ASK Bristol discussion to gain an understanding of residents experience with local bus routes, how far they have to walk to their nearest stop and how long they have to wait for a change of bus.

It’s only a ‘public conversation’ at this stage to gather some informal views before we sit down with local bus operators and map out a first draft of a full bus review for consultation.

Throughout 2010, there will be a number of further stages to this and ways to get involved, and we will be sharing more information about this on ASK Bristol.

Cllr Jon Rogers - Cabinet Member for Transport and Sustainability

Cllr Jon Rogers - Cabinet Member for Transport and Sustainability

Councillor Jon Rogers – Executive Member for Transport and Sustainability

I’m a great believer in early engagement and keeping people informed about fundamental issues like the Bristol’s bus route review.  We used this approach on the city centre layout debate on ASK Bristol and we’re asking people once again to join the debate on ASK Bristol about Bristol’s bus routes and network.  This will help us decide what the review should cover and how we go about it.  By getting involved at this very early stage, it means we can keep you informed as we proceed.

We’re using our new approach to involving citizens and groups with the bus route review which is about sharing early ideas and developing them together.  This process will continue through 2010 and changes to bus routes and the network won’t begin until 2011 at the earliest.  Use this forum to talk about:

•    How should we carry out the Bristol bus route review
•    What are the main citywide / strategic issues which should be considered in this review

We’ll be adding an interactive map soon which will enable you to place pointers on a map, comment on individual services and suggest new routes.

By getting involved in this debate or by signing-up for the ASK Bristol newsletter, we’ll keep you informed as the review progresses.

Young people on public transport

The Sustainable Development and Transport Commission asked young people for their views on public transport.  Here is the video the commission watched:

Useful links

Response from the council

On March 9th 2010 ‘Ask Bristol’ commenced a debate on behalf of the then Executive member for Transport and Sustainability (Cllr Jon Rogers) to discuss a proposed review of the bus network.

Responses were received up to October 2010, although the majority of the debate ran during March to May 2010.

The intention had been to inform a full review of the commercial and Council supported network during 2011.

During Summer 2010 it became clear that FIRST would not be in a position to resource such a comprehensive review and the commercial review was reduced to considering minor changes to improve the existing network (for example around the Hengrove area). There was also limited interest in a major review from the neighbouring authorities.

The change in government and emphasis on cuts in budgets has also had a significant impact on the ability to consider a detailed review of the network.

However, this initial debate has helped to inform the process of preparing new Contracts for the bus services supported by the Council (as considered by the more recent Ask Bristol conversation on “Supported Transport Services” which closed on May 11th 2011). These have included:

  1. Some assessment of the transport models to recognise where there may be significant numbers of car journeys and no direct competition from an existing bus route to assess whether introducing a bus service could be viable.
  2. Consideration of the potential patronage and viability of a new or revised bus route to serve the Crews Hole area of East Bristol.
  3. Consideration of splitting existing supported orbital services and adjusting their routes and frequencies to improve overall use, clarity and reliability.
  4. The procurement of services supported by the Council at the same time to make it possible to package the services, attract other companies into the market and to reduce the impact of the expected significant increase in costs.

The results of this further consultation and the procurement of supported services are covered in a report and decisions at cabinet on 9th June 2011.

Other comments associated with the development of SMART/through ticketing, major transport schemes, bus lanes and enforcement, parking controls and other measures have been noted as part of the ongoing development work in these areas.

This entry was posted in Bus Rapid Transit, Buses by Consultation Team. Bookmark the permalink.

About Consultation Team

Ask Bristol from Bristol City Council provides a range of e-participation tools to make it easier for citizens to get involved in local democracy and raise issues with the council. Ask Bristol includes: webcasting; a consultation finder listing all the council's consultation in one place on the web; a wordpress-powered discussion site and online polling and surveys

91 thoughts on “Bristol bus route review – join the debate

  1. It’s about time someone stood up to First – they must be laughing behind our backs at us.

    Fishponds buses to the Centre stop near Whitefriars for a driver change. You can wait 5 minutes for the finishing driver to cash up and the new driver to appear, or walk the rest of the way to the Centre. A great innovation on the part of First to save their drivers some of the walk from the bus station.

  2. Consultation? Lip service!!

    This council is railroading over the opinions of the residents and shop keepers in Fishponds who are objecting to their ill-thought out GBBN dedicated route through our area. For us it will mean lost resident parking and lost business. We don’t want it.

    GBBN/First Bus will no doubt get their way though, and the ‘consultation’ was an empty public exercise as they do not want to take on board our concerns. The revised plan, supposed to accomodate our issues, is not very much different to the original one, which will turn Fishponds shops into a ghost town.

    None of these planners live here though so why would they give a hoot?

    We are rallying to protest at our next Neighbourhood meeting.

    Improve bus services and routes, yes, but not to the detriment of the communities they pass through.

  3. I have today returned home to York after my first visit to Bristol for many years. I used to live there. What struck me on a walk from the Downs to the Centre was the paucity of buses. Where have they all gone? There used to be loads going up and down Whiteladies Road – or was it all my imagination? I was so surprised that I looked on the internet to find out what has happened – and found this site.

    We also have First buses in York and they are generally fairly good, although there are moans from time-to-time in the local paper. Don’t let them foist the FTRs onto Bristol though. York, Leeds and I think Swansea have got them.

    I live close to a main access road into the City Centre and it is rare to wait more than a few minutes for a bus. This means that people tend to use them rather than the car.


    With the coming of ‘real time’ information, passengers can know pretty well how long they’ve got before the bus comes. Anything over a couple of minutes, and they don’t have to stay at the bus stop itself – just stay within the time and distance range.

    That opens up the possibility of a qualitative change in the ‘waiting experience’ (not one of the delights of bus travel). So why not, where there are clusters of nearby stops, as around Broadmead, Cabot Circus, the Centre, have waiting rooms with seating, lighting, and – of course – the ‘real time’ departure boards so passengers know when they’ll need to leave for the bus departure point and have a minimal wait there. There’s a security enefit too… the more people gather in one place instead of spreading around disparate bus stops, the less chance of trouble and the greater sense of security.

    Though not essential, there may also be opportunities for retail, refreshment, etc to help cover the costs

    The ‘real time’ boards at Temple Meads ticket office area show that it’s possible – though at present they lack the surrounding comforts for waiting passengers. Something similar within Cabot Circus or the Galleries would be a first step forward.

  5. A) increase spending on cycling and cycle hire schemes by 100%

    B) support cycle refurbishment schemes that allow reuse of cycles

    B) suspend all road improvement schemes, with the exception of cycle and bus lanes

    C) introduce charging for all car parking, on and off-street, using programmable pay stations that accept cash, debit/credit cards or a City charge card that can either be linked to them or topped-up at any shop or supermarket

    D) designate residents-only parking areas that use the same pay stations, but only accept a residents’ (discounted) car parking card that only works in their immediate neighbourhood

    E) introduce a congestion charge and use it to subsidise shoppers’ buses to take people to shopping areas

    • Toni,

      Where’s the ‘carrot before the stick’ that BCC and the WoEP have been promsiing us for years?

      Where’s the step change in transport improvements in your plans?

      You seem to exist in a Utopia where First runs an efficient, reliable and affordable bus service and that we have a frequent and extensive network of urban railway services. Neither actually exists.

      You also seem to be labouring under the impression that First won’t hike their fares up even more once we’re all forced onto their buses – there’s nothing to stop them and they are a monopoly transport provider.

      Your idealistic plans would spell financial hardship for those least able to afford it and damage to Bristol’s businesses.

      You conveniently forget that Bristol is the regional economic and cultural centre of a wide area and that many who work and play in the city have to use their cars to get here as a, Public transport is very poor in Bristol b, Public transport is near non-existent in the areas surrounding Bristol c, Bristol has less than 4000 park and ride places, all concentrated in the South and East of the city.

      Without a dramatic improvement in the capacity, scope, affordability and reliability of Bristol’s public transport system your ideas would cause chaos, hardship and inconvenience for tens of thousands of people.

      Fortunately, any local politicians who would try to implement such as policy would find themselves out of office very, very quickly.

      • Of course, you simply could not put on a frequent, reliable bus network onto a crowded, congested road system.

        So, at least in that case, you can not have the carrot prior to the stick.

        Interesting comment about ‘financial hardship’ – does this mean that motorists are poorer than cyclists or public transport users? I don’t think so.

        • Yes Charlie, you can have the carrot before the stick – by investing in more Park and Rides, increasing the frequency of the urban rail system by resignalling, building turnbacks and reopening disused stations and lines and by reallocating some roadspace from motorists to buses.

          Then, if people still insist on using their cars you can bring in Toni’s punitive measures.

          Most other cities have managed it, but not Bristol. And that’s the fault of a succession of local councils, one of which you were a part of, failing to obtain decent funding for Bristol, and failing to use the money they did get sensibly.

          Believe it or not, not all motorists are minted. Many are not, but need a car because of the rubbish that masquerades as public transport in this city.

  6. Is this consultation still running? Could someone from the Council advise what is happening with the review of bus routes, and when next the public can get involved?

    Many thanks

  7. Too late! you have made the mistake of believing First are a company to trust. All over the country people are finding the First are the wrong choice. They promise good service while delivering some of the poorest in the country. Their fares are higher than other companies and their equipment is more expensive to maintain.
    Complaints are buried locally and their customers give up as it becomes impossible to improve the ever decreasing service. Councils are held to ransom has First take over dictating conditions and forcing cars off the road to increase revenue into their pockets. The ineffective services and excuses lead to yet more increases in fares. In the end you’re left with a monopoly and very poor services. Customers stop using them and start complaining to anyone who will listen to them. Not the way to run a business.
    The damage their equipment causes to the infrastructure means more expense replacing cables, water and gas pipes. More resurfacing of roads and structural damage to properties will cripple your Councils budgets and lead to increases in your local taxes. First Group should be the last resort as I have seen and felt the effect of this poor excuse for a business.
    Watch out for the high polluting bendy bouncing buses which are claimed to be the future transport. These monsters belong in airports as they are not fit for purpose in our streets causing untold damage as they thunder down the road. You been warned so choose wisely and don’t let First group bully you and get their way

  8. Some of the vital parts of making bus transport acceptable to those who now use cars:

    *Smart, multi modal ticketing (‘Oyster’ style)

    *Good real time information (at stops, on phones, in shopping centres)

    *A central transport hub (Plot 6, Temple Meads, being ideally placed and available) to make transfers easy, comfortable, safe and quick.

    All of which would be very much simplified if we had an Integrated Transport Authority – but our neighbours have put a stop to that.

    Also… given a high quality central transport interchange, it’s practicable to

    a) terminate routes at the ‘hub’, instead of long routes from one part of the city to the furthest extreme, with consequent timekeeping problems.

    b) consider turning single line routes into loop routes (like the outline of petals on a flower, radiating from the centre) so that (say) a Hartcliffe bound bus would come back from Whitchurch – and vice versa. That would give more options for people in the outer fringes, especially at off-peak times.

  9. I previously thought the first bus service was ok then i experienced a lot of different bus services across the country and i felt embarrassed by ours, out rightly the most expense service I’ve come across including the London bus service, also the bus routes into the more country areas like north Somerset are either stupid slow like my old bus route the 178 where it would take an hour and half to get radstock from Bristol and cost over £5 for a single, I know the other more local bus companies are supposed to cover these areas but they run about twice a day and sometimes don’t even bother turning up, also more could be done with the train and bus travel joint tickets i cant remember the last time is was advertised, one final argument i have is for tourists and non local using the buses, a number of friends of mine get very confused with the bus service.
    I not asking for dirt cheap round the clock super transport but a transport system which is up to standard to the rest of the uk.

  10. The main issues that needs addressing, in no particular order, are:
    • Introduce an ‘Oyster’-type ticketing scheme on all buses (and all bus companies) across the Avon area – don’t forget Bath in this review – 100s of people travel between the two cities daily. Electronic tickets to be useable on local train services as well.
    • All tickets to be bought in advance of travel – no payments on the bus means safer and faster buses.
    • Ticket machines at most major stops in Bristol & Bath, and at strategic stops on all main routes. Tickets to be available at the two bus stations – it’s ridiculous that you cannot buy a bus ticket at a bus station.
    • Real-time electronic displays at ALL bus stops across Avon – if the bus is running late, TELL THE PASSENGERS – it means they know what’s going on and reduces frustrations – most anger among passengers is due to not being told what’s happening or what the problem is. The majority of passengers aren’t unreasonable, but they get very frustrated when the bus company fails to maintain a dialogue with them
    • Over 65s’ free travel shouldn’t start until 10am.
    • Better co-ordination of services within and between the two cities.
    • Improve access at weekends and bank holidays – eg: 318 Keynsham to Bristol Parkway/Frenchay to run on a Sunday, 332/632 Bristol to Bath to run more frequently and until later in the day on Sundays and bank holidays.
    • Enforce current bus lanes – ‘police’ these for drivers who ignore them or park in them – a bus lane that isn’t enforced is simply a waste of paint. This includes people with disabled stickers on their cars and taxi drivers, who somehow think that the Highway Code and traffic rules do not apply to them.
    • Better training for bus drivers – both technical skills/driving ability and customer service skills
    • Satellite navigation on all buses – prevent drivers who don’t know the way taking the wrong route (for those of you who don’t travel regularly, this is something that happens much more frequently than you’d think!)
    • Better co-operation and co-ordination by the local authorities across ‘Avon’ – try to put the interests of the travelling public first, rather than narrow, individual council interests.
    • All Park & Ride services to operate 06.00 to 24.00, 7 days a week.
    • Better enforcement and heavier penalties for car drivers, delivery vehicles and lorries that think it’s acceptable to park in bus stops – this includes bus stops near schools. If you think it isn’t a problem, try the 332 journey from Bristol to Bath during a weekday, see if you can safely catch a bus at the designated bus stop outside Bitton School…
    • Harsher penalties for bus companies (stand up First Bus…) who routinely and consistently fail to operate their services according to the timetable. While traffic congestion is problem in causing delays, it’s not always the problem…eg: a service that leaves Bristol Bus Station at 06.30 has no reason to be delayed…if it’s running late, then this is due to poor operational management by the bus company – yes, that you again First Bus…

    That’s about it for now!
    Anthony Harrison

    • Completely agree with you.

      We have similar issues in Patchway, where the 75 (the only regular bus that goes through patchway apart from a random south glos service), is consistently late. Either the bus drivers avoid patchway all together by shooting down highwood lane from the mall instead of Coniston Road leaving passengers sometimes waiting over an hour for a honest driver to turn up. This is despite their route already being decreased at the expense of local OAP’s access because the council won’t enforce no parking down narrow streets of houses (they all have garages).

      Despite me making dozens upon dozens of complaints since before the millenium, this has not changed and it’s rare if ever that First will acknowledge your complaint. So with the 75, your lucky if you can get in to the centre within an hour. If you need to get to temple meads by 9am, you’ll have to be on the bus stop at 7.15 latest, 15 mins of which is walking from the centre, but I recommend 7am!

      Also, what happended to the express services that used to shoot up the M32 from the outskirts of Bristol? We need more of these in rush hour as Gloucester Road cannot cope as it is! Area’s like, Winterbourne, Yate, Thornbury etc are completely neglected in part due to South Glos council’s unwillingness to have a civil dialogue with Bristol. If areas such as Manchester and London can have respectable transport systems then what on earth is bristol’s excuse? In the above areas, you can travel from say Stockport to Manchester city centre by local train and bus for less than it would cost to get from Cribbs to Yate shopping centre.. And yet first operate one half of Manchester centre directly and have the other half under one of their sister companies Arriva which can mean up to 3 fares! First seem to have a monopoly everywhere, they even own Magic Bus! So I think it might be best for the government to take over, cos less face it with no compettition, the travel companies will continue to gouge us on buses and trains until they have a reason not to. Secondly, it might mean that we could pull the now disused locally based trainlines out of retirement and perhaps approach something that resembles an nationwide integrated service. I have heard rumours of a German company being consulted about the UK train system, maybe the councils could get some pointers from them on the buses too???

      One last thing, traffic lights are not the universal bandaid for congestion… Gloucester Road, Easton, St George and Cribbs Causeway are complete nightmares and I can’t drive so god know’s how you drivers feel!

      First, South Glos and Bristol, step up to the plate! With the profit margins First should have from their extortionate fares, we should be getting complimentary foot rubs or something. There is no excuse for complete neglect shown to the transport sytem over such an economic boom… Now it’s going to be under more stress than ever before as people lose cars etc in the crash, sooner rather than later please councilors!!!

      Ps, apologies for mis-spelling but I really couldn’t bothered after such an exhausting rant!

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