Bus operator First West of England has announced a number of changes to its services in Bath, most of which come as part of their ongoing COVID-19 recovery plan.
Some services are returning to timetables that more closely resemble their operation prior to lockdown.
Among the key changes to timetables and operating services, is the introduction of some dedicated journeys for schools.
These will operate as closed journeys, or ‘social bubbles’, for the use of students and teachers at a specific school or college only and will not be open to members of the public.
Buses operating a closed school journey will have ‘s’ after the route number on the display.
James Freeman, Managing Director of First West of England, said: “We are still in the pandemic, so these changes are unusual.
“For instance, some journeys introduced to support workers through the lockdown are no longer needed, and some services are returning to the timetables operated before COVID-19.
“We are constantly monitoring what is needed and where to get our customers moving again safely and reliably, especially now students are returning for Autumn term.
“Amongst new measures is the introduction of dedicated, closed schools’ services in order to accommodate the increased capacity.
“We are currently carrying up to half the passenger numbers from pre-Covid times. Numbers are steadily increasing.
“Of course, we have the challenge of social distancing which means we are running more vehicles on some routes than normal.
“We’ve also introduced a number of new ideas to help customers plan their journeys, including the First bus app to show the live location of buses and the number of seats available and Space Checker which lets you see which routes and times of day are quietest.
“We’d like to thank all our customers for their ongoing patience and cooperation over the last few months which has been challenging for everyone.”
Service 2 (City Centre–Combe Down-Mulberry Park) – some Sunday evening journeys will be withdrawn due to low customer demand. The timetable of this service during the week does not change.
The combined frequency of services between Weston and the City Centre (Services 3a/3b & 4) and along the London Road between Batheaston and the City Centre (Services 3/3a/3b) will be reduced slightly to every 10 minutes from every 7/8 minutes. The frequency on the individual services (3: Foxhill-City Centre-Bathford, 3a/3b: Weston-RUH-City Centre-Batheaston-Elmhurst, 4 Weston-RUH-City Centre-Odd Down) will now be every 20 minutes on each route. An additional journey, numbered 3s, will operate from Batheaston to Hayesfield School each morning. This will be a closed service for students of the school only.
In the week, Service 5 (Bus Station-Twerton-Whiteway) will operate on a slightly reduced frequency of every 10 minutes. Service U5 will provide additional capacity on this route between Twerton Arch and City Centre.
There will be some minor changes to services 6/6a/7 (City Centre–Camden-Larkhall/Fairfield Park), 11 (City Centre–Bathampton) and 12 (City Centre–Whiteway) but there will be no change in frequency.
Service 8 (City centre-Oldfield Park-Monksdale-Kingsway) will operate a slightly reduced frequency, providing journeys every 20 minutes rather than every 30 minutes, Monday to Saturday.
Service 9 (City Centre-Penn Lea Road-Weston-Westcombe) has been suspended since lockdown began in April and will now be withdrawn. Westcombe and Penn Lea Road will both be served in future by journeys on services 20a/20c. (For more details of services 20a/20c, see below).
Services 18 (Bath-Keynsham-Oldland Common–Kingswood) and 19 (Bath-Bitton–Cadbury Heath-Kingswood-UWE-Parkway Station-Cribbs Causeway) will see minor timetable and route changes better to accommodate the schools that they serve. In addition, Service 18 will be extended from Kingswood to UWE. There will also be a minor route change to service 19 at Bristol Parkway to improve punctuality. As a result, the stop at East Filton Sainsbury’s will no longer be served, though new stops in Stoke Gifford will be included in the route.
Service 20 will change. It will become a circular service from Bath University, covering much of the southern and western parts of the city. It will run hourly during the day in both directions.
Service 20a (a=anti-clockwise) runs Bath University-Widcombe Hill-Dorchester Street-High Street-Julian Road-Weston High Street-Westcombe-Weston High Street-RUH-Penn Lea Road-Newbridge Road-Windsor Bridge-Oldfield Park-Twerton-Rush Hill-Glasshouse-Bath University.
Service 20c (c=clockwise) runs Bath University-Glasshouse-Rush Hill-Twerton-Oldfield Park-Windsor Bridge-Newbridge Road-Penn Lea Road-RUH-Weston High Street-Westcombe-Weston High Street-Julian Road-Grand Parade-Dorchester Street-Widcombe Hill-Bath University.
This service will run Mondays to Saturdays. Due to difficulties with parked vehicles, these services will no longer serve Southlands.
Unibus Service U2 will also be withdrawn, with journeys along this route provided by the enhanced changes to Service 20a/20c.
However, the route will be extended beyond Twerton to the University of Bath to provide alternative options to Service U2. Additional journeys will operate on services 20a/20c between Bath University and Twerton during University terms.
In addition, a further closed service (route number 20s) will operate along this route via Widcombe, providing an additional journey specifically for Ralph Allen School students.
Service 37 (Bath Bus Station-Bitton-Hanham-Bristol Bus Station will be reinstated after suspension during lock-down. A limited off-peak service will be provided and there will be special journeys for Oldfield School.
Some minor changes will be made to the timetables of services 171/172 (Bath-Radstock-Midsomer Norton-Paulton), and 173/4 (Bath-Radstock-Midsomer Norton-Wells). Customers are advised to check timetables prior to travel. On Mondays to Fridays, the frequency of service 171/172 will be reduced slightly, though in combination with services 173 and 174, services between Bath and Midsomer Norton will continue to operate at a frequency of every 15 minutes.
The additional short journeys between Wells and Shepton Mallet on Service 174 will not serve Dinder, because of the risk of buses meeting in the village. The main service continues to serve the village hourly Mondays to Saturdays as before.
The frequency of discover Service D1/D1x (Bath-Bradford-on-Avon-Trowbridge-Westbury-Warminster-Salisbury) and D2 (Bath-Norton St Philip-Beckington-Frome) will not change, but additional journeys will be added to this route to serve schools and colleges. These will be closed services and show respectively route numbers D1s and D2s.
Service R2 will be withdrawn. Abus will operate a replacement service to Ralph Allen School.
Unibus Service U2 is withdrawn and replaced by routes 20a/20c (see above).
Unibus route U5 (Westgate Buildings-Lower Bristol Road-Bath Spa University) will be increased to half-hourly on weekdays during the day. A further increase will be announced shortly to take effect from 21 September.
The route of Unibus Service U5 will also be changed, with all journeys operating along Lower Bristol Road, rather than Upper Bristol Road. Together, Service 5 and U5 will provide increased frequency and capacity between Twerton Arch and City Centre.
Unibus Service U6, which has not been in operation since lockdown began in April, will be withdrawn. The increased and enhanced U5 service will provide alternative journey options to customers who previously used service U6.