Local MP Steve Webb has hosted a meeting in his constituency office at Yate to raise with First Bus managers the many concerns of local residents about the quality of bus services in this area.
James Freeman, the new Managing Director of First in the West of England, attended the meeting along with Commercial Manager, Simon Ford. The two heard from Steve Webb a range of complaints about services including services from services from Yate to Southmead Hospital, from Thornbury to Bristol and from the village of Marshfield. They also heard from X49 user Mrs Carol Moore, whose account of the service was described by James Freeman as “a chapter of horrors”. Issues raised included buses being cancelled or running late, inexperienced drivers making mistakes over routes and the lack of reliable information at bus stops.
First Bus said that they recognised that the service needed to be improved and were planning a range of improvements for the timetable which takes effect at the end of March 2015. This included ensuring that the first bus of each day gets to its starting point on time, adjusting timetables to make sure that they give a more realistic indication of journey times, recruiting more drivers to reduce dependence on agency and temporary staff and trying to make better use of the existing fleet of buses as well as bringing in new vehicles and more double decker buses to increase capacity.
Speaking after the meeting, Steve Webb said:
“Complaints about buses form an unfortunately large part of my post-bag. Whether it is people trying to get hospital, commute to work or travel to college, a reliable bus service is essential. I welcome the commitment of the new management at First to improve things, but local residents have heard promises before and have had to put up with a substandard service for far too long. I will be keeping in close contact with First and welcome ongoing feedback from local residents about their experience of bus services”.
Managing Director James Freeman said: “I have worked in the bus industry all my life and I want to give local people a bus service that we can be proud of. We are working hard to make sure we understand where the problems are coming from and to tackle them as systematically as we can. I hope that the changes we make at the end of March will make a noticeable difference”.
Westerleigh resident Carol Moore added: “People who depend on the X49 to get to work or college have been caused real problems by the frequent lateness of the bus. I know of some people who have faced disciplinary action at work for lateness when they may have no alternative to catching the bus and should not be blamed if it is late. On my way home from the meeting at Steve Webb’s office there were two bus cancellations which meant my journey home took far longer than it should have done. We urgently need a better bus service, especially as we are always being told to use the bus rather than drive”.