Following a consultation with users, First Bus is set to make a series of changes to services that travel between Bath and Bristol, in a bid to take on board some of the feedback offered by its customers.
The changes will affect services X39, 37, 38 and 39.
More than 350 people took part in the consultation process, filling in questionnaires about the inter-city services.
The overwhelming response to the consultation underlined the fact that many people are broadly happy with the current level of provision, especially on the principal route, the X39, which connects Bath and Bristol via the Keynsham by-pass.
Many customers raised concerns though at the punctuality and reliability of buses which are often caught up in unpredictable levels of congestion at the Bristol end of the route.
A significant number of people also requested improved frequencies for services running in the evenings and on Sundays between Bristol and Bath.
The following summarises the headline changes that will be made from 4th September (full details regarding how each service will be individually affected, can be found at the bottom of this story):
- Service X39 will continue to run via its existing route, along the A4 Keynsham by-pass.
- Buses on routes X39 as well as 38 and 39 will continue to serve the Centre in Bristol as well as the bus station as First recognises that serving that area, and Harbourside, is important to customers. There may be a change to the exact route buses take through the Centre later this year though (circa November), taking account of Metrobus construction work.
- Schedules will be extended where necessary to improve the punctuality and reliability of buses – to address the concerns raised by customers.
- Evening and Sunday services will be improved, with more frequent journeys on Service 39 between Bristol and Bath via Keynsham.
- Part of the route that Service 37 buses take (which currently operate via Bitton and Kelston) will be changed. They will be switched to operate along the A4 between Keynsham and Bath along the A4. This will open up new links between Newton St Loe and Saltford, and Longwell Green and Hanham.
Talking about the changes being made James Freeman, Managing Director of First West of England, said: “This is the third big consultation we have done with customers in recent months, and the results have been illuminating.
“We are particularly pleased that people are broadly happy with the X39 apart from the obvious desire, which we share, to improve its punctuality and reliability.
“We have listened to what people have said here and we will be taking steps to fix these issues, as far as its within our power to do so, while also responding to the increasing demand for more frequent services between Bristol and Bath, particularly in the evenings and on Sundays.
“There were other things that people called for, for instance a full 24-hour service on the X39, but when we delved more into this the data showed that the greatest proportion of people (59%) anticipated using buses between midnight and 2am, with just 20% expecting to travel between 2 and 4am.
“With that in mind we’re unable to extend the hours of operation at this time but we’ll obviously keep this under review moving forward. As things stand the last departure from Bath is at 1am, while from Bristol it is at 2am, which should satisfy the majority of people.”
The changes being made will affect bus services in Keynsham, and separately in Bitton and Kelston.
Keynsham town centre will retain access to buses running between Bristol and Bath every half an hour during the daytime however the number of buses serving the town’s Park Estate will change from four an hour, to three an hour Monday to Friday. This level of service better reflects current levels of usage. People in Keynsham will also benefit from enhanced links to Hanham, and new direct links to St George and Lawrence Hill (on Service 37).
Abus’ Service 349, which runs between Keynsham (Temple Street) and Bristol Bus Station will continue to provide two journeys an hour on a revised timetable. The latter will complement the First services in the same area.
People in Bitton and Kelston will lose access to Service 37 however these villages remain well served by Service 19 (Bath – Cribbs Causeway via Bitton, Kelston, Cadbury Heath, Kingswood and UWE Frenchay Campus).
James Freeman explained: “Service 19 has been improved substantially in recent years and now operates every half an hour. These changes have meant that over time more people in Bitton and Kelston have chosen to use Service 19 over and above Service 37, so we’re taking the step to re-route Service 37 between Bath and Longwell Green via Saltford and Keynsham, as it will benefit more passengers in those areas.”
People in Bitton and Kelston wishing to travel into Bristol City Centre will be able to transfer to other, frequent, services into the centre from Cadbury Heath (Services 43, 44, 45) or Kingswood (Services 35, 42/42A, 43).”
Service 37 (Bath – Bristol via Saltford, Keynsham, Hanham): Buses, running hourly Monday to Saturday daytimes, will follow the same route as Services 38 and 39 as far as Keynsham town centre. They will then operate via Keynsham Road to Willsbridge before following the current route through Longwell Green, Hanham and Lawrence Hill into Bristol.
The changes to Service 37, when taken in combination with Service 38, will provide a 30-minute frequency between Bath and Keynsham. The change of route also strengthens links between Keynsham and Hanham and provides a new direct link between Keynsham, St George and Lawrence Hill.
Students travelling to Oldfield School should note that one morning and one afternoon journey, designed to specifically facilitate school movements, will continue to operate as a Service 37A.
Service 38 (Bath – Bristol via Keynsham): The timetable will be adjusted from September, with buses set to run hourly Monday – Saturday daytime only.
The changes mean that people in Keynsham’s Park Estate will have buses once an hour connecting them to Bath (Monday to Friday, on Service 38), and three times an hour towards Bristol (Monday to Friday, on services 38 and 349 – the latter provided by Abus). Between Keynsham and Bath services 37 and 38 will combine to give two buses an hour over this section.
While there will still be services to and from Keynsham town centre during the evenings and on weekends and public holidays (on Services 37 and 39), the Keynsham Park Estate will lose direct access to services at these times (as Service 38 will not operate during the evening or on weekends).
The loss of evening and weekend services on Service 38 reflects the fact that very few people have travelled at these times, and so the resource being used to provide them is being redeployed elsewhere.
Service 39 (Bath – Bristol via Keynsham): From 4th September the frequency of Service 39 journeys will be increased, so that buses run every half an hour (instead of hourly as at present). Late night journeys will also continue to operate, giving people even more options for travel between Bristol, Keynsham and Bath during the evening.
On Sundays and Public Holidays, the frequency of buses will increase, to one bus every 20 minutes (compared to every half an hour at present) during the daytime, and one bus every hour in the evenings.
The punctuality and reliability of services will be improved as more time is being allowed for journeys to be completed, with increased recovery time at the start and end of journeys.
Service X39 (Bath – Bristol via A4 and Brislington): Buses will continue to run every 12 minutes Monday to Saturday daytime with some changes made to the timetable to improve punctuality and reliability. Customers are advised to check the new timetable before travelling.
Timetables for the new services will be available online from 8th August and to pick up from Travel shops from 22nd August.
For more information about First West of England or to view timetables for its current services, visit www.firstgroup.com/WestofEngland.