Bus operator Wessex will be taking over two routes in the Bath area from September, in a bid to maintain and improve services for passengers across the city.
Wessex will be taking over Service 42, Odd Down P&R – RUH, and Service 4, Bathampton, which will be changing to an extended Service 12, operating between Bathampton, the city centre and Haycombe. Detailed changes to a number of supported bus services can be found at the bottom of this story.
Service 42 is currently operated by Abus and Service 4 by First Bus.
The changes are being made following a review of supported bus services in the area, aimed at protecting or improving services for the vast majority of bus users, whilst at the same time ensuring that the Council’s bus subsidies are used to the best possible effect.
Nearly all the bus services in the area are run by private bus companies on a commercial basis, over which the Council has no direct control. However where possible the Council steps in to provide financial support to meet social needs not being met by the bus companies.
In a number of cases local residents will see an improvement in their bus service, with improved frequency or journey times.
However the Council is scaling down support where services are underused, or where there is duplication of commercial services, to ensure that funding is being used to the best possible effect and provide value for money for local taxpayers.
Despite the financial challenge facing the authority, Bath & North East Somerset Council is continuing to spend more than £1 million in supporting these local bus services as well as local Dial-a-Ride and Ring-and-Ride services.
Councillor Anthony Clarke (Conservative, Lansdown), Cabinet Member for Transport, said: “These changes are being made following a review of supported bus services across the district.
“During this review, our priority has been to protect and improve services where possible whilst at the same time ensuring that the investment we are putting into local bus services is being used to the best possible effect for the maximum number of users.
“Unlike many councils – who have removed most bus subsidies – we are continuing to spend more than a £1million a year to support local bus services in both rural and urban areas.
“However, we also have a duty to ensure that we use taxpayers’ money to the best possible effect, and where a service is running almost empty we clearly cannot justify asking taxpayers to subsidise a service that may, in many cases, cost more than the equivalent taxi journey.
“In such cases, other supported services such as Dial-a-Ride and Ring-and-Ride may be more appropriate.”
Commenting on recently-announced changes to some commercially-run bus services between Bristol, Keynsham and Bath, Councillor Clarke added: “Whilst the Council has no control over commercially-run bus services, we have expressed concerns to First Bus over some of their recently announced changes, such as to the number 38 through Keynsham.
“Whilst there is a limited amount we can do in these circumstances, in order to try and maintain a bus link between the Park Estate and the High Street in the evenings, the Council has agreed to fund two new journeys from Keynsham Church to Keynsham Park Estate at 20:05 and 21:05, to be run will be run by Bath Bus Company.”
Detailed changes to services for the Bath area
Service 42: Odd Down – Royal United Hospital (P&R)
The 42 Park and Ride service will continue to run broadly the same timetable but will be run by a new operator, Wessex, on a commercial basis.
The new operator will not be running the flexible route / request stops service, which was used on average twice a week during 2015.
Service 4: Bathampton (Being replaced by Service 12)
From 5th September 2016, an extended number 12 service will be operated by Wessex between Bathampton, Bath city centre and Haycombe. The service will replace the First Bus No. 4 from Bathampton.
Service 12 will allow passengers from Bathampton to retain their links to Bath and Oldfield Park. The service will run every 40 minutes.
The section of route 4 from Kingsway will now run as bus service 8, which will link through the city centre to Upper Weston every 30 minutes.
Service 2: Ensleigh – Bath city centre
From 5th September 2016; the Lansdown Park & Ride service will serve all stops on Lansdown Road replacing service 2 from Ensleigh.
The Park and Ride will provide more flexibility for these stops with a frequency every 12 or 15 minutes compared to the hourly number 2 service.
The Park and Ride service will continue to terminate at Milsom Street.
Any passenger who needs to go to the Bus Station will be able to use the 620 (Old Sodbury – Bath) service, which will run an additional trip on Saturday mornings. Currently an average of 8 people per day travel through to the bus station on service 2.
Through tickets will also be available from Lansdown Road for passengers needing to transfer to services 6/7 at Milsom Street for the Bus Station.
Service 6/7: Fairfield Park & Larkhall – Bath city centre
The 6/7 will continue to be operated by First on a commercial basis and will provide Larkhall and Fairfield Park with access to Fairfield Park Health Surgery with both services operating along Camden Crescent, with a bus every 15 minutes instead of every 30 minutes.
Services will, however, no longer stop on London Road; where it was found that just two out of 458 passengers interviewed travelled between Larkhall and London Road and just one from Fairfield Park to London Road.
While some areas of Fairfield Park will no longer have direct bus access to Larkhall Square, just five passengers out of the 458 surveyed made this journey and Dial-a-Ride can provide an alternative local bus service
Service 379: Bath – Bristol
This service has been subsidised by developers but is unlikely to become commercial. The service will cease operating from 4th September as there are a number of alternative services:
A new, commercially operated 172 service will link Paulton, Midsomer Norton and Bath from 4th September 2016.
The 376 links Pensford and Clutton to Bristol and Wells
The 178 links Radstock, Midsomer Norton, Keynsham and Bristol
Changes to the 768 service route will provide a new link between Clutton and Midsomer Norton
Changes to Service 178 and new 172 service
From 1st September, the 178 will operate hourly between Radstock and Bristol only, with services to Bath replaced by a new, commercially-operated 172 service.
The 172 will operate every 30 minutes Monday – Saturday daytime, and hourly on Sundays.
The 178 between Radstock and Bristol will no longer run on Sundays, because of low usage and most passengers will be able to use alternatives such as the commercial service 39.
The weekday 23:15 journey from Bristol will cease because of very low usage, with most passengers having alternative services available.
The last direct service from Bristol to Radstock and Midsomer Norton will be at 19:35, although later connections will be available via Bath (connecting with service 172 departures to Paulton as late as 23:50).
The 178 will no longer operate through the Chandag estate in Keynsham. This area will continue to be served by the 665 service.
The 178 will no longer stop at Tesco in Midsomer Norton, but there are several alternatives including the new 172 service which will provide a service every 30 minutes Monday to Saturday and every hour on Sunday.
The Council will continue to support hourly evening journeys between Bath and Paulton on the 172 service with a last departure from Bath at 23:50.
Service 179: Bath – Writhlington
The Council will continue to subsidise the 179 service to increase frequency of well-used daytime journeys.
Evening services are not well used, and many passengers could use alternative services. From 5th September the last journey from Bath will normally operate at 19:40 during the week, but the Council has agreed to retain the 23:00 journey from Bath on Fridays and Saturdays only, when there is passenger demand.
Journeys from Writhlington at 19:28, and from Bath at 20:55, will no longer operate.
The 179 service will be rerouted from 4th September to serve more passengers and it will now serve Farrington Gurney and Cranmore Place in Odd Down.
Keynsham Park Estate evening services:
The Council has agreed to fund two new journeys from Keynsham Church to Keynsham Park Estate at 20:05 and 21:05. These will be run by Bath Bus Company.
Service 82: Paulton to Radstock Tyning
Following the retirement of the operator (Somerbus), the Council has found an operator, Frome Minibuses, to run a service Monday-Friday from 5th September 2016.
This will continue to serve residential areas in Paulton, Westfield and the Tyning, as well as provide a link between Paulton and Somervale school.
It has not been possible to secure an operator for the service on Saturday. Many passengers may be able to use other nearby commercial and supported services for their journey. There will, however, be no service to the Tyning on Saturdays.
B&NES Council continues to support Dial-a-Ride services, which are available across the district and can be used by many people who cannot use a scheduled bus service to reach their destination.