A previously-threatened “lifeline” bus service linking parts of South Gloucestershire with Frenchay and Southmead hospitals has been saved, delighting campaigners.
First Bus had informed South Gloucestershire Council back in June that they were intending to withdraw the Service 18 with effect from 2nd September, which runs from Emersons Green to Southmead Hospital via Downend, Frenchay Hospital, UWE’s Frenchay campus, Parkway station and Little Stoke.
But the bus company has now reversed its decision, after a modified timetable was agreed with the council’s Integrated Transport Unit (ITU).
The new timetable will see the evening and weekend service operated hourly, but it will now operate from Emerson Green on all journeys.
The Service 18 contract was only awarded in September last year after the 517/8 service was discontinued under the Bristol City Council retendering exercise.
First Bus had indicated that although passenger numbers had almost doubled from 8,000 to 15,000 per month, the revenue they were receiving was not enough and so they had given the council three months notice to terminate the contract.
Campaigning local Conservative councillors had raised concerns about how patients would be able to get from Emersons Green to Southmead hospital, especially once the previous Labour government’s downgrading of nearby Frenchay hospital had taken effect.
Conservative councillors for Emersons Green, Colin Hunt, Dave Kearns and James Hunt, who led the criticism of this bus cut, said:
“A bus service really doesn’t get any more lifeline than this and so we are pleased that First Bus has been persuaded to maintain what is the only direct service that links our area with both Frenchay and Southmead hospitals.”
“We have been contacted by many local residents who had been concerned at the impact that First’s shortsighted withdrawal of this service would have had on them and we would like to thank the efforts of council officers who have been working on ways to keep the service running.”
“The service had only been around for nine months and was introduced after a period of much uncertainty – it was incredibly unfair of the company to heap yet more uncertainty on these same passengers.”
“The previous Labour government’s shameful decision to downgrade Frenchay hospital – backed by local Labour councillors – makes it even more important for there to be a direct bus link from Emersons Green to Southmead hospital for patients travelling by public transport.”
Photo: Number 18 bus service pictured in Little Stoke (image courtesy of the Stoke Gifford Journal)
Related link: Public Transport in South Gloucestershire (The Post)
Source: Conservative Group on South Gloucestershire Council